The apparent meteoric rise of Brendan Rodgers

by Caylum O'Neill

In arguably the most interesting week for a football fan in quite some time, one particular development stood out among the plethora of title-clinching, Barca-bashing stories – the apparent interest of Manchester City in replacing Roberto Mancini with current Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. The Sunday People broke this story over the weekend, and it has heralded guffaws from a few non-Liverpudlians, who see Rodgers as yet another Liverpool manager floundering about in mid-table without the vaguest idea of how to run a top club. However, it does beg the question, just how good is Brendan Rodgers?

Well, let’s begin in Watford, where Rodgers’ first team managerial career did the same. Rodgers impressed as Chelsea’s reserve coach, and was chosen by the Hornets as the prime candidate to replace Aidy Boothroyd following their relegation from the Premier League. Their form continued to dip under Rodgers, and they found themselves in the Championship drop zone by January. He began to steady the ship, and the season concluded with Watford finishing in thirteenth place. The Watford board gave Rodgers a second season to try to improve Watford’s position, but he instead decided to join Reading, despite having dismissed speculation just that month. As a result, Rodgers’ reputation with Watford fans was severely damaged. Results at Reading were disappointing, so much so that Rodgers and the club parted by mutual consent six months into his tenure.Rodgers Liverpool

Beginning to look frighteningly like a sub-par championship manager, Rodgers got his final chance to justify José Mourinho’s praises in the form of Swansea City. Interestingly, in relation to this article, Rodgers apparently snubbed an offer to become a member of Roberto Mancini’s coaching staff at Manchester City in favour of the managerial role in Wales. At the Welsh side, Rodgers began to prove himself as the manager he was built up to be. After 10 games, Swansea were in fourth place, and had built a name for themselves as a slick passing side. His side finished the season in third place, and defeated his former side Reading 4-2 in the Play-Off final at Wembley to secure their place as the first Welsh side in the Premiership.

Rodgers seemed to be the perfect modern manager. He played attractive football, with the ability to finish opposition off in the final third, was admired by all others in his field, and could speak elegantly about the game at length, without any of the soundbites which he has become famous for since his arrival at Liverpool. He proved last season that he can cut it in the big time, with his Swansea side finish in eleventh place, and pick up four points against Arsenal and Chelsea in the same month, a feat which saw Brendan Rodgers pick up his first Premier League Manager of the Month Award. Rodgers employed a 4-2-1-2-1 formation, and his Swansea side were likened to some of the biggest names in Europe for their style of play. Swansea were rewarded for the gamble taken on the young manager, who proved that he was up to the talk which surrounded his name when he arrived on the managerial scene.

That summer saw Fenway Sports Group (FSG) look to Rodgers as the prime candidate for replacing Kenny Dalglish. Rodgers distanced himself from the speculation, saying that if he was to leave Swansea, he would have to be the club’s only target. After meeting and being unimpressed by Roberto Martinez of Wigan, FSG did in fact make Rodgers their only target. FSG were suitably impressed by the Northern Irishman, and appointed him manager on a three-year contract on 1 July 2012. In his bid to show his trademark work-rate, Rodgers presented his employers with a 180 page dossier of where he wishes to take the club. In keeping with his reputation for being an all round gentleman, Rodgers issued an open letter to Swansea fans, thanking them for their support and wishing them well.

It is at Liverpool that Rodgers’ reputation has taken yet another hit, with this season seeing the development of Rodgers from clever, young manager to a walking soundbite whose soul desire is to “win the passing”. In reality, this does not take away from the fact he is still a clever young manager who is probably the most promising Liverpool manager in terms of potential since Rafael Benitez first took charge of the club. But things like Being: Liverpool, the access-all-areas documentary aired last Autumn, and the “Envelope Analagy” are very hard to overcome when constantly in the public eye like Rodgers.

It is not just Rodgers who has come under some extra scrutiny since he arrived on Merseyside in June, but his system, also. Liverpool’s league position is reflective of the flaws in need of ironing out in Rodgers’ plan. The inability to put teams away, while lessened since the January arrivals of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, cost Liverpool dearly when on top in the majority of early season games. While this can be appreciated by the Liverpool fans and board as early teething problems of a generally productive system, the Manchester City board, who are ready to sack a manager for finishing second if rumours are to be believed, would probably not be so patient.

The manager Brendan Rodgers has proven himself to be, at the least, competent and very hard-working. It is the public Brendan Rodgers who is worrying, and has clearly not learned from his mentor’s mastery of public speech. In the space of a year, he has gone from looking like a genius while explaining his system on Match Of The Day, to having his character compared to that of “The Office”‘s David Brent. It may take a few more seasons to see which Brendan Rodgers prevails, but until then I don’t see the battle taking place away from Anfield.

4 Responses

  1. Dave Stewart says:

    I find it incredulous that there are those who exceptionally quick to damn anyone who does not completely overhaul and turn a football team around within a season. Liverpool for far too long have been on the decline, finances are scarce and even with the return of Dalglish, were unable to find any sustainable form.

    Two managers with experience of the premier league failed to resurect the club from the ashes even when presented with a massive cash injection. The side continued to slide.

    FSG then looked to an alternative path and bringing in Rogers who, had shown some potential. His side struggled at first to convert to a new style and formation but for both the team and the manager it is a learning process. Additions like Borini, Allen, Coutinho and Sturridge have allowwed players like Carrol, Spearing and Wilson to go out on loan. Bringing in to the startinv line up and blooding players like Suso, Sterling and Wisdom has shown that he has faith in our youth system.

    I for one have been impressed with our progress this season, especially in an area where we are all to quick to find fault. I like his style and his eloquent manner in front of the camera. He appears to be an honest and decent man wbo genuinely believes in what is right for the club. I have complete faith in him and with one or two additions and the removal of some of the underperformers we will continue to make strides in the right direction.

    I think the comparison with David Brent is disrespectful and completely unfounded. I think people need to look at possible alternatives that we have had, or could have as possible alternatives!!!

    1. Hi Dave,
      I completely agree with you, I find his transfers very impressive (with the exception of Joe Allen), and firmly believe that he is the man to take our club forward. This article was meant to serve as an unbiased look at the man as a manager, and whether or not he is deserving of the link to Manchester City.
      As for the David Brent comparison, I do not make these comparisons myself, but felt it was a necessary inclusion in the article as his public speaking has been the most prevalent of complaints over Rodgers this season.
      Thank you for your feedback.

  2. WJ says:

    The man appears to have the gift of gab, but you really don’t need that to convince owners who know **** all about football. I’m still wondering if he has the substances to back it up. We finished below Everton, and the season was over so quickly without much to play for. People think his saving grace was Suarez but I beg to differ. His saving grace was returning of Lucas who gave stability to the team that was leaking silly goals left right and centre, and he had no solution as to how to sure up the defense prior to the return of Lucas. The most worrying thing this season was that one of the best defensive units of last few seasons had turned into absolute dump and, this is a serious cause for worry, as no team ever wins anything with manager who can’t organise defense.

    All this talk of playing good football is just make belief most of the time, the stand out performances have only come against very poor sides and against top sides recorded is terrible. He tried to play patient passing game but half way through the season he realised this isn’t possible with Gerrard in the middle and decided to let Gerrard do what he does best. So in the end despite all this talk of tiki taka, pass and move, we ended up playing fairly direct and to be fair this was one of his better judgements.

    I’m still not decided on BR, and he hasn’t really given me much reason to either, some of the man management has been terrible and that comparison to David Brent isn’t unfounded at all, especially when you consider how he was acting during the first half of the season.

    This season he always had the excuse of every manager needs time, but that won’t apply next season, and he really does need to convince everyone that this job is neither too big nor came too early for him.

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