IT’S over! The wait is finally over! I know has only been two weeks, well 15 days to be precise, since King Kenny was ushered towards the Anfield exit door from a skyscraper in Boston but, I’m sure you’ll agree, the past fortnight has seemed like an age. No fans like their club to be managerless, the insecurity and worry that the situation brings with it, where too next, who are we looking at, who’ll be any good, who even wants the job?
All questions that circulate frantically, producing differences of opinion and even in-fighting amongst fans.
During the two weeks while the club was effectively leaderless and FSG were working behind the scenes to remedy the situation, the newspaper columnists, broadcasters and social networkers have been in overdrive, which has resulted in more speculation than an average week on the London Stock Exchange. The supposed long-list of names such as Capello and Guardiola, allegations of a “beauty parade” supposedly scaring off potential candidates and so on, but those of us who were paying attention to what was really happening had a fair idea of how it might end up.
FSG have been clear all along about the kind of structure they would like to put in place and, more importantly, about the kind of manager they were seeking to employ. The Americans were after Villas Boas in the summer but failed to land their man, with the ex-Porto boss moving to Roman’s Chelski (a decision that AVB likely now regrets). With Kenny Dalglish enjoying great success at the back-end of last season and fans, rightly, clamouring for the King to be given a second crack, it was a no-brainer for Henry and Werner to hand the Scot a permanent contract. That contract, however, by the nature of how it came into being, was always going to be a conditional one.
Unfortunately for Kenny and Commoli and the rest of the Anfield hierarchy, it didn’t work out, at least not well enough and not quickly enough. At one point things were looking ok and I was sure, and happy in the knowledge, that Dalglish would have his rightful place for at least one more season, which would have been enough for him to re-establish us as a top four team. However, our run of results over the last four months of the season was not good enough and, with every defeat and point dropped, the writing on the wall began to get clearer and clearer. Personally, I don’t even think that winning the F.A. Cup would have saved him and, by the final day defeat to Swansea, having cleared the decks all around him, the Americans were more than ready to revert to plan ‘A’.
Plan ‘A’, as alluded to above, meant a structural overhaul, the creation of a new position and the spreading of responsibility threefold, in an effort to install a proper system of checks and balances in the running of a football club. Key to the success of such a system, certainly in the FSG model are the personnel employed to take up the divided Director of Football post.
The D.o.F. is to split into two roles, a Sporting Director and a Technical Director (although the names may change), they must be filled by experienced, mature, knowledgeable people and, particularly the Sporting Director must be highly thought of in footballing circles, with the ability to identify and attract the best players. This is the model that FSG want to implement, it has its detractors but FSG seem certain and, if they are going to be persuaded to abandon this part of the strategy as has been suggested by breaking reports, then they will have to be ultra-convinced of the arguments against it.
The main component of Plan ‘A’ surrounded the kind of manager that FSG wanted to bring in and they had very definite ideas, even before they gave Kenny the job. First and foremost, they wanted a young manager, which is why reports of Capello and van Gaal, for the manager’s post, were always well wide of the mark. Secondly, they wanted a man that was continental in approach. When I say continental, I mean well-travelled, schooled in all aspects of the game and, most importantly, up and coming, hungry and able to work in the type of structure that the owners are looking to establish; which is one of the main reasons why Rafa wasn’t sent so much as a text message. Rightly or wrongly, he was not the kind of manager that they were seeking. Thirdly, they were looking for somebody with an exciting, short-passing, possession style game, akin to the likes of Barcelona, and someone who would take a holistic view to the club, incorporating the academy right up to the first team as the Catalans do with La Masia.
When I broke the news on this site on Monday that Rodgers would have talks it was met with scepticism and even some derision but now, four days on, Liverpool FC will announce the man from Carnlough as the new boss.
This is a new dawn for Liverpool, an extremely exciting time. Many, including Mark Lawrenson, regard the appointment of Rodgers as a huge gamble which, to a small extent, I suppose it is. Many look at his record at Swansea and think, ok he’s done well there but he’s untested at the highest level, which again to some extent is true. However I believe that in Brendan Rodgers we are getting the best young manager in the country, a winner, somebody with pure drive, determination, ambition and, above all, quality.
Not only has Rodgers been a coach since the age of 21, giving him seventeen years coaching experience already, not only has he studied football in Holland at Ajax and in Spain with Valencia amongst others, not only has he just returned from observing at the Spanish National team training camp where he is a well-known face, not only has he spent years at Chelsea with Mourinho, Steve Clarke and AVB, but also, he is rated by Jose himself as one of the best in the game. Mourinho has a great affinity and respect for the man he shares a birthday with and says that he and Rodgers share a way of looking at the game that few others possess.
Brendan Rodgers style and philosophy of football has been written about many times over the last couple of days and even the last year. The best way to understand was to watch Swansea City play last year. The control of the game through keeping the ball, tiring teams out by making them chase shadows whilst re-charging their own energy levels, the high pressing of opponents and winning the ball back high up the pitch, perpetual motion, making it hard for the opposition to score because as Rodgers says “if you don’t have the ball you can’t score”, are the tactics which have been employed by Barcelona to devastating effect over the last six or seven years. It may need some slight tweaking of personnel to bring the tiki-taka to Liverpool, we may even see Gylfi Sigurdsson sign before too long but, on the whole, most of the components are already there.
Barcelona is what FSG want. Henry and Werner have scrutinised the recent history of the Catalan club and they are planning to try to replicate it at Liverpool. The Catalan model is admired the world over and they have won everything on offer in recent years. Consequently, their brand value has sky-rocketed and they’ve recruited an army of foreign fans in all corners of the world, making a nice profit in the process.
Luckily for us fans, what FSG want coincides with what we want. What fan could honestly say that they wouldn’t jump at the chance of emulating at least some of the style and success which has been achieved at the Camp Nou. It won’t be a carbon copy, nor would we want it to be, but Rodgers understands the way football has changed and where it is heading.
I am not saying that the appointment of Rodgers means that everything else will necessarily follow, but one thing is certain, with this decision FSG and Liverpool Football Club have made a commitment to the future, a statement about the style of football they want to play and, about the heights to which they hope to ascend. This is an exciting time to be a Liverpool fan, Rodgers is a man who can get us back to where we belong hopefully sooner, rather than later. Bring on next season; we’re ushering in a New Red Dawn.
You can catch Neil on Twitter @Neil1980 or on his blog http://itsallinthegameblog.wordpress.com/
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