You take on an almighty task and you think, sod it, I’m going to give it a go. Brendan Rodgers must have had thoughts similar to this as he walked into John W Henry’s office in Boston just 7 months ago. When he strolled past the trophy cabinet for the first time he’d have done well to sit back, pay homage to the greats and keep walking.
Rodgers has shown in his short spell at Anfield that he’s his own man. He told FSG to look somewhere else to begin with. “I have to be first choice or not at all” was the much reported slogan at the time. To further stamp his authority Rodgers said he wouldn’t leave Swansea if Liverpool went ahead with a director of football. FSG duly rolled over and were so impressed by him that they gave him the job with their much publicised plans for a new structure flying out of the window. The 180 page dossier seemingly the best thing FSG has read. Indeed in his first press conference he managed to leave most of the media spellbound by the slick delivery of what seemed a well written concerto, one of realism but also blatant ambition.
After the 7 wins, 6 defeats and 7 draws (prior to Sunderland at home) quite a few fans were beginning to think that maybe a silver tongue was all Brendan had in his locker. That criticism was beginning to hold some weight, if not merit; consistency being the issue and a few rough decisions along the way. The Sunderland performance seems to have kept the critics quiet for a while at least.
The turning point of this season could well prove to be the performance against Sunderland at home. Yes Fulham was good, very good. So too was QPR and Norwich. Even the gutsy West Ham performance although of poor quality showed grit and courage to come from behind and win. Yet Sunderland was the first time I’ve seen Liverpool completely dominate, press, wear out and blindside the opposition for a full 90 minutes in a long time. Sunderland just looked completely finished after 60 minutes – by that time the damage was done; Liverpool rampant at Anfield once more, Rodgers’ philosophy finally beginning to show.
Rodgers hasn’t been scared to slam his players and has shown guts publicly with the press in repeatedly slamming his players’ attitude stating his desire for consistency. The character, tempo and desire have at times been sorely lacking. This will not do for Rodgers or his senior players.
Now with Daniel Sturridge taking on the No 15 shirt, Rodgers has a player who’s impressed but never fulfilled his potential. He’s 23 and frighteningly good on his day. The attitude is well reported but I’d urge the fans to back the new arrival, give him a pat on the back and tell him that at Liverpool ‘you’ll never walk alone’ is more than a slogan, it’s a way of life.
Maybe it shows something about the desire that Sturridge has now that he’s picked the same shirt number as he had at Bolton where he looked the happiest in his short career. He clearly wants to feel like he did there and make that number his own.
For Rodgers, his judgement will come both based on results and performances alike. With 51 points available from the next 17 games Rodgers should be looking to ensure winning ways are kept up. To be realistic, for the Champions League we’d need to win 14 (based on the top 4 last season) of those games and hope other teams slip up around us. It’s possible, however 14 from 17 is Premier League Champion-winning form and I can’t see us doing that.
It shouldn’t be underestimated the effect of not having Champions League football is having on the fans, FSG’s business plan and more worryingly Luis Suarez. Losing him would surely be an almighty blow to Liverpool. World class players like that are few and far between.
As to Rodgers, we can only hope his daring to dream won’t prove a bridge to far but something very special for our club. Like Dietmar Hamann said a few days ago, ‘if you work hard, keep feet on the floor then you never know what can happen’.
2013 will, I believe be a crucial year for the club. Here’s hoping it’s going to be alright in the end!
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