Keeping a Lid on Liverpool Expectations Will Be Brendan Rodgers' Biggest Test

Mark JonesFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2014

Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers applauds during their English Premier League soccer match against Manchester City at Anfield in Liverpool, England, Sunday April. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Clint Hughes)
Clint Hughes

We live in the Twitter age, so football news doesn’t exactly “filter through” anymore.

There are no longer images of agitated men, women and children in stadiums with their ears pressed to a personal radio, nor a need for the same fans to be sat at home staring at Ceefax screens waiting for them to update.

These days, all of our information gets tweeted, retweeted and favourited from all across the globe, and it was this way that Liverpool supporters were bombarded with information about Manchester City’s match against Sunderland on Wednesday night, even if they couldn’t watch the game live.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 16:  Connor Wickham of Sunderland celebrates scoring their second goal with Emanuele Giaccherini of Sunderland  during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Sunderland at Etihad Stadium on April 16, 2014
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

They knew all about Fernandinho’s early goal, Connor Wickham’s equaliser and scarcely believable second strike before Samir Nasri’s late leveller, which ensured that City at least took a point from their disappointing evening. They needed three, though.

Having started the day knowing that 12 points from their remaining four matches were required for Liverpool to win the league, Reds fans ended it with the knowledge that the total had been reduced to 10. Three wins and a draw will do it.

Of course, achieving such a feat is easier said than done.

On Sunday, Liverpool go to a Norwich side who are fighting for their lives, followed by the visit of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea juggernaut and a trip to face Crystal Palace before the last game of the season at home to a Newcastle team who are, well, a Newcastle team.

Try as they might though, it is impossible for fans not to get carried away. It would have been the same for Manchester United supporters when their team were on the cusp of a first title in 26 years in 1993, and for City fans when their side ended a 44-year wait two seasons ago. It’s natural. It happens.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 13:  Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield on April 13, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

For all the talk of the players remaining calm and composed—with Luis Suarez the latest to stress the importance of that to the Liverpool Echo—there will obviously be a heightened degree of emotion coming from them, too. Or several degrees, if the look in Steven Gerrard’s eyes after the Manchester City match last Sunday was anything to go by.

But the key is in how that emotion is managed, and has been in Liverpool’s case for pretty much the entire season.

Brendan Rodgers enlisted the help of the noted psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters 18 months ago, and while there is little doubt that the doctor has had a huge impact on the club and the players—more of which is discussed in this excellent interview with Matt Lawton in the Daily Mail—it is Rodgers who is on the front line. What he says and does in the next three-and-a-half weeks will be crucial.

Suarez knows as much, telling the Liverpool Echo in the aforementioned interview:

It’s very important to see the manager relaxed.

Brendan gives all of us confidence because he’s good at his job.

He believes in all of the squad and when you have that belief from your boss then it’s easier to perform at your best.

Rodgers’ demeanour is what is crucial now that Liverpool are on the home straight with their necks out in front. How he looks and acts will be scrutinised, particularly in the build-up to the Chelsea game, when Mourinho is likely to try and get under the skin of his former protégé.

Ignore that, keep calm, carry on, keep your head while everyone—and it really is everyone—outside of the dressing room is losing theirs, and Liverpool might just end up winning this thing.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 30:  Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers congratulates Jon Flanagan and Steven Gerrard of Liverpool at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on March 30, 2014 in Liverpool,
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Chelsea at home remains the key, but Norwich away comes first—as Gerrard pointed out to his team-mates in no uncertain terms last Sunday—with Manchester City’s Sunderland-shaped disappointment having opened up a little breathing space. Things don’t feel so cramped up there now.

They still feel pressurised, though, but the trick is perhaps to take that pressure and then apply it to their title rivals.

Rodgers, Gerrard, Suarez and Liverpool will look to go again at Norwich, exactly the same, and not let this slip.