Remembering what Brendan Rodgers got right

In the post-mortem of a managerial sacking there always appears to be a great deal of supporters washing their hands of previous coaches. With fans eager to assume the new manager as lord and saviour of the club, revisionists will argue that Brendan was never special at all, and our 2013/14 near-triumph was simply owed to a Uruguayan possessed. Yet, for a brief, halcyon time Brendan Rodgers was not the pariah that is Deluded Brendan, he wasn’t even David Brent – he was Bill Shankly and Jose Mourinho all rolled into one, cultivating the most exciting football that two entire generations have bore witness to.

Although it all turned rather sour and fans were surely put through the ringer, with glasses half full, Rodgers was not the complete failure most would have us belief. In this respect here are some things the Northern Irishman did get right.

Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho


By far the best two talents in our current squad were acquired by BR some time ago. And, it’s easy to forget that the two cost just £20.5 million in total, imagine how much they’d cost now?

Having arrived from Chelsea in January of 2013 Sturridge hit the ground running, scoring 11 goals in just 16 games, including a memorable first hat-trick against Fulham and a 25-yard strike against former club Manchester City. Coutinho’s introduction, although far more gradual in it’s true success, was a stroke of genius. Scoring on his full debut Coutinho appeared to be the creative missing link, picking up player of the month in March and netting Liverpool’s final goal of the season exhibiting great promise for things to come.

Coutinho’s central midfield role in the following season was a revelation, earning praise for his accurate passing, dribbling skill and lead-up play to the mighty SAS. Sturridge, not wishing to be eclipsed by Suarez, went on to score 26 goals in 30 appearances, a prolific talent if ever there was one. Sturridge’s injury plagued season to follow was a blow to say the least for Rodgers. And, bar a contentious featuring role in the PFA’s team of the year for Coutinho, the less said about 2014/15 the better.

Nonetheless, we have much to be thankful for these two immense talents. And, as our own Rory Greenfield has suggested, the best is yet to come.

Squad improvements

They say that only 40% of transfers are actually successful. £291 million spent later and perhaps Liverpool and BR wish they would have achieved such a target. Regardless, Brendan Rodgers has replaced and revitalised an anaemic looking squad inherited from Kenny Daglish. Let us not forget that Mamadou Sakho, Emre Can, Alberto Moreno, Joe Gomez, Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino were all acquisitions made by Rodgers and the transfer committee (and that Markovic’s absence is not permanent).

Although Rodgers and co. certainly were not perfect in the transfer market the squad strength we now possess is far better than many give credit for. A host of international talent and proven goal scoring threat is nothing to sneer at. This is definitely not Alex Ferguson leaving Moyes a bare-boned squad of over-rated talent, under the right guidance this is a team fit for challenging in the top four. Far from complete yet with a strong spine, Brendan has left the squad in good shape, if not good form.

Building from youthful foundation



When taking over Daglish’s side Liverpool’s starting line up had an average age of over 26 years old, almost three years older than the average age of the typical Premier League team this season. In response Brendan brought in youngsters by the shedload. Some of our best performers still remain under 25 years old, with the likes of Coutinho, Henderson, Ibe and Can earmarked for great success at the club.

In accordance with FSG’s policy Rodgers sought after and cultivated some of the best young players in the world, including Europe’s golden boy, Raheem Sterling. Theoretically, Liverpool not only have strong back up players, but youthful talent that can compete at the highest level for some time. Not only that, but they can be fashioned and shaped into footballers the next manager believes to be most useful.

Daring to dream and scintillating football



Perhaps Rodgers’ greatest achievement was convincing fans of all ages, that maybe, just maybe… we could actually go and win the league. Although we shipped goals like nobody’s business Liverpool produced some of the most exciting football many have ever seen, scoring a Premier League record breaking 101 league goals along the way.

Luis Suarez tore apart Norwich, then he tore apart Norwich again, just because he could. Jon Flanagan even joined in the fun scoring a ridiculous half-volley at Tottenham, it was heady times.

It was a team united by a passionate free-flowing game that made even the neutrals support the Redmen. It was pass and move with the propulsion of a jet plane. And Rodgers was integral to this, fashioning a Liverpool side that played to their strengths, rather than simply cover their weaknesses.

His coaching of Suarez was perhaps the paramount reason for such success, inspiring confidence and an unprecedented work ethic. That Suarez’ style had to be adapted for the Premier League is what many forget, as he did not come world class ready. On this note Suarez described the manager as such:

“He was very clever and told me that Liverpool would play possession football, as it would suit me…He helped me with my runs, arriving in the area at the right time and coming in from wide – rather than just waiting in the middle – which benefited my confidence”

“He knows all about English football and he educated me to become successful.”

Rodger’s went on to pick up the LMA manager of the year, and for good reason. He had produced the best football-playing team in the country, who landed just 3 points shy from a success none would have conceived prior to the start of the season.

Measure in capitulation



It’s highly irregular that a club just 6 points from the top off the table, 8 games into the season were so steadfast in their decision to sack their manager. If we are to channel Deluded Brendan fully then Rodgers leaves with just a 0.78% lower win percentage than the great Bill Shankley. Even if this is largely nonsense it points to Liverpool’s unspectacular decline. Despite a 6-1 loss to Stoke on the final day of the season more concern has been placed on Liverpool’s form rather than their results. A change to 3 at the back certainly helped stop the rot for some time, despite never being a permeants long term solution.

Although a sixth place finish last season is simply not good enough Rodgers does not leave us in utter disrepair. I wrote a week or two ago that for FSG it was a case of damage control. With such a swift sacking taking place, Rodgers was not left to languish. Even if some fans fairly believe Rodgers should have left last summer, FSG were right to give a man so close to success a fair shot. That it didn’t work out is both unfortunate and predictably. But, no decision in football comes without risk and Liverpool’s season is far from irrecoverable. Brendan may have lost the fans, but he didn’t truly lose the plot. Even in decline Rodgers was never truly inept as many proclaimed him to be, and it’s to his credit that despite immense pressure Liverpool are still in a position to challenge this season.

A phase in the progress of Liverpool Football Club



Rodgers took us to places we didn’t realise were possible, even though near-success will only produce songs ringing round the Kop for so long. Are we better for Rodgers’ appointment? Probably, yes. Although it was rather a prolonged affair in the end, at the time Rodgers was more than just the best pick from a bad bunch, he was an excellent, if uncompromising manager.

That his reign at the club never produced silverware is regretful. Despite now appearing to be unable to make the step-up to such a team Rodgers was a good manager for some time, even if a bitter taste still lingers in the mouth for most. Perhaps now it’s all over fans can cherish what he did right, and the fact that Liverpool are still in a solid position, primed once again to emulate the success that Rodgers so desperately craved for us all.

Ben Butler

Ben Butler

Music, Film and Sports blogger. Ardent Liverpool fan writing to convince myself, and the reader that this is our year.
Ben Butler