It was an inauspicious way with which to kick off the career as the new manager of one of the biggest football institutions in world football, but I am not sure that Brendan Rodgers does regrets.
Before the Reds had even kicked a ball in anger this season under their recently installed head coach, the club—and more accurately the man—who had just arrived from Swansea City, were already making headlines but for all the wrong reasons.
Rodgers, to many peoples’ general surprise, had agreed to allow in the TV cameras from US sports broadcaster FOX to film a fly-on-the-wall documentary charting the Merseysiders’ early season progress under their new man, beginning with their preseason tour across the pond.
When the show was eventually aired on Channel 5 in the UK last September, Rodgers was on the receiving end of some harsh, and at times brutal, assessments as to both his character traits and his managerial capabilities before he had barely got his feet under the desk in his new office at Melwood.
One particular barb that was aimed his way was an especially unflattering comparison to the David Brent character from the UK TV comedy hit series “The Office” due to Rodgers’s penchant for talking too much, as well as some of the more eye-catching motivational tools which he used to inspire and cajole his new players.
The nadir came when Rodgers was seen holding up three envelopes towards the climax of the tour, before telling his slightly bewildered players that they contained the names of a trio of individuals who would go on to let the club down in some way, shape or form during the upcoming season.
Now, despite the fact that the new Liverpool manager reportedly copied this psychological exercise from none other than the king of the mind games himself, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, coming from the 40-year-old did not quite carry the same impact.
Not a great start then to a job that many would say is virtually impossible in the first place, and if one types “Rodgers quotes” into Google, then you will be greeted with a plethora of recently created websites solely dedicated to the Liverpool manager’s Brent-like sayings from his debut campaign at Anfield.
Rodgers, though, is honest in acknowledging his tendency to always speak his mind, a trait that can also be a weakness when communicating with the British press: I can’t control how the things I say are promoted. If you say the same thing to six different people, you will get six different interpretations of that. While there’s a chance I have to retain my optimism.
I don’t want to be hung out to dry as a fool. I am a glass-half-full man. I have got to where I am in life because I am optimistic. That is how I have always approached my work and my life. If you don’t think you can do it then you won’t do it. You have to see it to believe it.
Before ending things with another one of his favoured sayings: I’ve always said that you can live without water for many days, but you can’t live for a second without hope. If you don’t have hope then you’ve got no chance.
However, likening Rodgers to Brent is unfair but more importantly also way wide of the mark. The new Liverpool head coach is a highly ambitious and driven individual, as you would expect from someone who has just landed one of the top jobs in British football before the age of 40.
There has been nothing Brent-like either in a number of revealing decisions that Rodgers has had to make, both before his arrival at the club and during what has been at times a tough and examining first season on Merseyside.
For starters, the way in which Rodgers initially refused to take part in an audition with the likes of Wigan Athletic coach Roberto Martinez to succeed previous manager Kenny Dalglish clearly showed a man who knew his own value.
Meanwhile, having then seen off all challengers for the role, Rodgers has since had to make a number of tough calls this season, demonstrating real maturity beyond his years, which bodes well for his long-term future at the club.
Whether it is the way in which he has handled the stalled Reds careers of midfield players Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson, extracting previously unseen form from players such as Jose Enrique or Luis Suarez or the reintegration of veteran centre-back Jamie Carragher into the first-team fold at the expense of the underperforming Martin Skrtel, Rodgers’s much-derided man-management skills have really come to the fore for all to see.
In the transfer market, too, the new man at the helm has also shown real expertise and judgement in convincing the likes of striker Daniel Sturridge and Brazilian schemer Philippe Coutinho to join his Reds revolution, with both men making impactful contributions to the team cause since the turn of the year.
Let’s be honest, Brent would never have been able to extract the clear and noticeable improvement in both results and performances that Rodgers has so clearly brought about in Liverpool this season.
By the climax to the campaign, the Reds should have collected more points, scored more goals and won more games than last time around, while the football on display under Rodgers has been infinitely more entertaining than the drab affairs that littered the second half of last season.
Of course, Rodgers is now faced with more unwanted distractions with which to deal with following Sunday’s disgraceful scenes at Anfield. However, unlike Brent, we can be confident that the new Liverpool manager will deal with this latest indiscretion from bad-boy Suarez in the same measured and calm fashion that he has faced most of the challenges that have come his way this season.
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