Brendan Rodgers yesterday signed a three-year contract to become the new manager of Liverpool Football Club. Replacing folk hero Kenny Dalglish, the 39-year-old has performed excellently to bring Swansea City into the Premier League and lead them to survival in their first year back in the top flight.
The Merseyside club have had to pay around £4-5m in compensation to the Swans for the Northern Irish boss, who guided his former club to a 1-0 victory over Liverpool on the final day of the season.
Club favourite Mark Lawrenson has called the recruitment of Rodgers a “gamble” for a side that finished 17 points adrift of the Champions League positions in eighth, but is this really a fair assessment of the Ulsterman’s capability? It could in fact be argued that there is no risk in the appointment whatsoever.
Having a Liverpool stalwart brought back from a different era to try and lead a club that bore little to no resemblance to the one that dominated English football so absolutely in the 1980s simply did not work. Rodgers is a dynamic, driven, talented young manager. He has thrived in a solid working environment in south Wales, and taken a club for whom Premier League football was never a likelihood all the way to the “best division in the world.” And kept them there.
Swansea City finished three places behind the Reds this season, with a 3.5m forward, in Danny Graham, leading the line. Liverpool, on the other hand, boasted an attacking pair of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, which cost over £50m. Rodgers won’t, as many might fear, be overawed or intimidated into submission by big reputations.
“It could be argued that there is no risk in the appointment whatsoever.” – Quote of the day
Nor will he be burdened by the recruiting mistakes of the previous regime. There is a chance for players such as Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing to genuinely thrive under Rodgers. While it would be unfair to call the appointment “underwhelming”, it is not the sort of high-profile move that would necessitate a ratcheting up of the expectation level at Anfield.
Perhaps, and this may sound like blasphemy to supporters, Liverpool could use a year in which the club’s great reputation is forgotten, or at least put to one side. This season, when defeats were suffered away to Queens Park Rangers and at home to Wigan Athletic, fans would atop their podiums and exclaim: “But we are Liverpool! We can’t lose to teams like this.” They could, and did.
Lawrenson argued that if the club isn’t anywhere near the top four towards the end of next season, what will the owners do? I would argue that they should do precisely nothing. If progress is made on the field, and Liverpool finish two places higher, that is a successful season. The days of the “big four” are long gone, and the truth is that the Merseysiders are not a Champions League club. Nor will they be any time soon.
This was precisely the problem under Roy Hodgson and Dalglish, who was sacked on May 16th. However, if the fans give Rodgers the time he deserves, and will undoubtedly need, in a few years time this team might genuinely be challenging for silverware, rather than having to talk up the significance of success in the League Cup to pamper the reputation of their “Messiah.”
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