This picture can be found in Brendan Rodgers’ home. Honestly. You do have to wonder what the motivation could possibly be for someone to have a portrait of themselves on their wall.
He doesn’t gouge peoples’ eyes out like Jose Mourinho, ban journalists for asking questions like Sir Alex Ferguson, or make a yearly habit of selling his best player after previously staunchly dismissing any possible transfer like Arsene Wenger, but what on earth would possess a man to get an “arty” print of themselves commissioned and hung, under a purpose built light, in their house?
Just how much do we actually know about the man who has replaced Liverpool legend, Kenny Dalglish, as manager at Anfield?
Rodgers moved to England to play for Manchester United’s youth team after being spotted by their scout, Eddie Coulter, who more recently can be credited with finding Jonny Evans, although was released soon after and joined Reading. He played for the Reserves there but retired when he was 20-years-old due to a genetic knee condition and the realisation that even when fit, he wasn’t good enough to make it at the level he aspired to.
Rodgers went on to learn his trade at Chelsea Football Club, having been headhunted by Mourinho to coach the youth team, before making the step up to the Reserves. Rodgers believed that Mourinho took him under his wing because he saw “something different” in him. It’s not just Mourinho who rated him but Neil Warnock too, with Rodgers once reflecting on the current Leeds manager telling him: “you can be a top manager” when he got the Reading job. He lasted just 23 games there though, losing 11 of them, before being sacked.
It was a desperately disappointing time for Rodgers, particularly given that he had burnt his bridges at his first club, Watford, for the opportunity to manage Reading.
“When I am asked about other clubs, people are questioning my integrity and one thing I have mentioned is I always have integrity,” he said at the end of the 2008-2009 season whilst still at Watford. “I am loyal and find it disloyal when I am asked about other clubs when I am the Watford manager. There is nothing that has changed in that respect.”
Five days later it was announced he had left Watford for Reading with his new club having to pay £1m in compensation.
A Watford Supporters Trust statement read: “Having recently made statements stating that the speculation linking him with the vacant position at Reading brought his integrity and loyalty into question, his subsequent decision to talk to Reading about their vacancy has severely damaged his reputation in the eyes of Watford fans.”
After the disappointing spell that followed at Reading, he turned down the opportunity to join Roberto Mancini’s coaching staff at Manchester City and went on to make a name for himself at Swansea. They finished 7th in the league the season before he took charge, just outside the play-off spots, and made the jump up to 3rd in his first season. They secured promotion to the Premier League after beating Nottingham Forest and his former club, Reading.
Swansea were the first Welsh team to play in the Premier League and despite predictions they would be relegated at the end of the season, Rodgers lead them to a very impressive 11th placed finish, five points behind Dalglish’s Liverpool.
Dalglish was sacked and Liverpool began their mission to find a new manager, which turned in to a bit of a farce, with Fabio Capello, Frank de Boer and Roberto Martinez all reportedly turning the job down. Liverpool’s co-owner, Tom Werner, insisted that Rodgers had always been their first choice though. “We engaged with a number of very experienced football people whose names have never been mentioned,” he said. “We ended up focussing only on Brendan Rodgers. We never made an offer to any other manager. We were extremely impressed with Brendan, with his thoughtfulness and devotion to Liverpool. Brendan was the only candidate to whom we offered the position.”
However, this contradicts recent comments from Martinez, who claimed he had been offered the job but opted to stay at Wigan. “We must educate people,” he said. “In five or six years, we [Wigan] reap the benefits. Maybe I won’t be there then. But this is not why I stayed, when Liverpool made me an offer. I stayed because my chairman is unique.”
Regardless, Rodgers got the job, and came out with the guff expected from anyone making a move to Liverpool FC. This suggests he’s no idiot. Roy Hodgon has a much better pedigree than Rodgers and was booed out of the club after just 31 games. The fans that once used to be proud of the loyalty they always showed the manager are now on to their fourth in two years, with Benitez, Hodgson and Dalglish all failing to meet expectations and being shown the door. If not for the fans, Hodgson might have been given longer to prove himself and Dalglish might have been kicked out earlier. Whilst the final decision isn’t theirs, they certainly have more influence on the owner than most sets of fans, which Rodgers is clearly aware of. If he gets them onside, he might buy himself more time. However, It takes a special type of manager to claim they will fight with their life for the people of the city and refer to the job as a “quest”. This is football management, not signing up to slay a dragon or reclaim the Golden Fleece from Colchis.
“I’m blessed to be given this opportunity,” he said after being named manager. “I want to thank John Henry, Tom Werner and FSG for the opportunity to manage such a great club. I’m really excited and I can’t wait to get started on this incredible project going forward. I promise to dedicate my life to fight for this club and defend the great principles of Liverpool Football Club on and off the field.”
It didn’t stop there though. He has gone on and on, waxing lyrical about the status of the supporters, the history of the club and the importance of the shirt.
“Liverpool Football Club is the heartland of football folklore.”
“I want to use the incredible support to make coming to Anfield the longest 90 minutes of an opponent’s life.”
“I will leave no stone unturned in my quest – and that quest will be relentless.”
“This is a club that is historic for the identity, style and DNA of its football.”
“When you come to a club like this one the shirt weighs much heavier than any other shirt.”
“There is an imbalance at the minute. You’ve got some of the world’s best supporters here and the playing group is not quite at that level yet.”
My personal favourite: “All I’ll ever do is all I’ve ever done in any job, and that’s promise to fight with my life for the supporters and the people of the city.”
And finally, following his first game as Liverpool manager in the Europa League qualifier against Gomel in Belarus, Rodgers wrote an open letter to the supporters.
“It was a privilege to acknowledge your support on the evening at the ground, as we did following the full-time whistle, but I wanted to reiterate our thanks with this brief message,” he said. “It was a special night for me personally and it was great to see you in the stadium and in great voice; you made me proud and you made the players proud. You are an integral part of this team. You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
Writing an open letter is brilliant in itself, but signing it off with YNWA? You couldn’t make it up. (He has form for this though, having written an open letter to Swansea fans not long before, claiming the club would live in his heart for the rest of his life.)
It has gone downhill for Rodgers since Gomel though, with Liverpool enduring their worst start in the league for 50 years, following a 3-0 defeat against West Brom, a 2-2 draw with Manchester City, and a 2-0 home loss against Arsenal.
He’s also had a nightmare in the transfer window, with Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy being sold and just Fabio Borini brought in as a replacement. There was also the bizarre decision to loan out another striker, £35m Andy Carroll, to West Ham, which backfired massively when their plans to sign another striker amounted to nothing.
Since arriving at Liverpool, Rodgers seemed determined to get rid of the most expensive English player in history, without giving him the opportunity to show what he could do, although repeatedly changed his mind on whether a loan deal was an option. The £35m player (or -£15m player if you ask Dalglish) was not wanted.
July 10th 2012: “It’s something I would have to look at, I have to be honest. I’m not going to sit here and say I will never let anyone go on loan, then come in here in two weeks and a player’s gone, and you’re saying ‘you said you wouldn’t let them go’. There are many things to going on loan. Is it going to be beneficial for the club, that’s the most important thing? Sometimes a player going out on loan – in general, not just Andy – can benefit the club in the long term. I have spoken to him on his holidays, he knows exactly where he stands.”
July 18th 2012: “There has been a lot written and spoken about him but first and foremost Andy is a Liverpool player. To consider a loan period for someone the club spent £35million on isn’t something we’re looking to do at this moment in time. Andy will be the same as every other player – if there’s ever an offer that comes in we’d look at it as a club and see if it’s going to be worthwhile for the club and the team as a whole. The club invested £35million in him. People talk about whether he can fit into my style or not, but if you’re a club and you spend £35million on a player you’d like to think he can fit into whatever style the team plays.”
July 20th 2012: “There has been a lot of unfair criticism of Andy, there has been a lot of speculation in the press in terms of not being able to fit into my style of play. I think that’s unfair. If a club spends £35m on a player, you would expect that player to be able to fit into whatever style a manager will bring in. I’ve spoken openly and honestly with Andy in terms of where he is at, but I have done the same with all of the players, I have spoken to all of them, I have had communication with all of the group. Maybe others may not see him fitting in with me, but for me he is an important part of the group. There is talk of him going on loan, but there is absolutely no way I would be looking to loan a player like that, especially after the investment the club have paid. But his condition will be the same as every player. If an offer comes in for any player at the club we would either look at it, or dismiss it, and Andy’s no different to that.”
August 23rd 2012: “There is absolutely no chance [of a loan deal]. We have got a very small squad as it is. We have lost a lot of players this summer and I have not replaced them, as of yet. That is the reality of where we are. I need a minimum of three strikers. Once the window shuts, that is it until January. I have got Suarez, Fabio Borini, and Andy Carroll. I would need to be a nutcase even to consider at this moment to let Carroll go out.”
The most damning remarks relating to Carroll came the day before the transfer window closed, with Rodgers essentially saying he wanted rid of him (amongst others) and suggested that if Carroll didn’t leave for regular football elsewhere it was because he wasn’t willing to part with the salary Liverpool paid him.
“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see Andy’s been a cover player but he’s been excellent in his attitude and acceptance of where he is at,” he said. “But, as a club, I’m not sure we are in a position to have £35million players as third-choice strikers, or a winger on £5-6m a year. There’s still a wee bit of thinking time, and it’s hard to walk away from here. The ones who want to play will probably look elsewhere, irrespective of finance, because that’s their passion. The club financially needs repair. So to sign the players linked, unfortunately I don’t have the ability to do that – not in this window anyway. This is an incredible club and some players, even if you want to move them on, won’t walk out. I can only ever be straight with players. I’ve made it clear my group will be made up of starting players, cover players who can come in, and development players who can progress. If you feature outside of that I will tell you and then it is up to the player what they want – do they want to play football?”
Later that day Carroll travelled to London for a medical and a loan deal was agreed with West Ham. With just two goals scored in their opening three games, there is now an awful lot of pressure on Luis Suarez to step up to the plate and improve on the eleven goals he scored in the league last season.
With rumours already circulating of a rift behind the scenes between the manager and owners, something both parties deny, fans are being given an insight to what really goes on behind the scenes thanks to a fly-on-the-wall documentary, ‘Being Liverpool’ which will be shown on Fox Sports in America later this month. The papers have been afforded a sneak preview of the footage and there are certainly some interesting revelations.
“You train dogs,” says Rodgers . “I like to educate players.” Part of that education includes meditation, with the Liverpool players attempting to fight fits of giggles when carrying out the set exercises. During one exercise called ‘the cat’ one unseen player sends the rest of the squad into hysterics by making a quiet ‘miaow’ noise.
“Every player I see as my own son,” Rodgers says in the documentary. “I want to do the very best for them. I want to be able to push them in their lives so they can do it for their children. We do everything in life for our kids. I don’t want to ever miss the chance of letting players understand that this is why we do it.”
At the end of the ‘Being Liverpool’ trailer, the voice over claims 2012-2013 will be “the season that will change their lives forever.” It’s not unlike the Americans to be over dramatic, let’s be honest, but does Rodgers have a chance of making this season even half decent, let alone life changing?
Looking at his managerial record to date, his very successful period at Swansea is sandwiched between 32 games in charge of Watford (lost 38% of them), 23 games at Reading (lost 48% of them) and the worst start to a season Liverpool have made since 1962 (which can partly be explained by the strength of opponents they have faced). It’s not very inspiring.
I’m sure Rodgers isn’t too dissimilar from lots of managers though. To varying degrees, they all must have big egos, say things to impress the fans, have the ambition of creating a philosophy and make mistakes in the transfer market, but there’s something a bit ‘David Brent’ about Rodgers, and maybe that would be easier to forget or ignore… if we didn’t now know he has a portrait of himself in his house. Rodgers is guilty of fairly awkward and cringeworthy comments but the jury is still out on whether he is the man to bring the glory days, the “bread and butter”, back to Liverpool Football Club. For Rodgers to get away with his persona, in the way that Mourinho, Ferguson and Wenger have been forgiven for their failings, he has to do a bloody good job at the club. Does he have the makings of a world class manager? Time will tell.