James Lawton: Liverpool must give Brendan Rodgers control he needs to do job properly
Published 31/05/2012 | 10:53
Amid all their genius for getting things wrong, Liverpool may just have stumbled on something – and somebody – that is right.
There are no guarantees, of course, but if they do indeed appoint Brendan Rodgers they might just be going back to the roots of a fabulous tradition.
They may be putting their future in the hands of a young coach of both burning ambition and a striking belief in his own methods and way of seeing the game.
The last time Liverpool did this was more than half a century ago and it was the best part of that time before they took a backward glance.
Of course identifying a young charger is not the most difficult challenge and for this we only have to check with the current owner of the Champions League title, Roman Abramovich. When he picked out Jose Mourinho he selected someone considerably further up the football food chain than Rodgers, for all the latter's admirable, bold work at Swansea City, but what the oligarch didn't grasp – and maybe still doesn't – is that there is no point in appointing one of the brightest young managers if you do not give him a clean opportunity to do his job.
This reality gives a degree of credence to a report that Pep Guardiola wouldn't dream of moving to Stamford Bridge without a face-to-face with the owner during which he could satisfy himself that he would have complete freedom to make his own team.
Most would accept that such a demand is eminently reasonable on the lips of a Guardiola but it is also one Rodgers is entitled to make.
He hasn't presided over the world's most luminous football club culture for four years, he hasn't won the great prizes of the game, but his work has been arresting enough to apparently carry him to the top of Liverpool's wish list.
That should be enough for the time and the financial support he needs to do what he did at Swansea. This was to make an authentic football team, playing with skill and confidence, patience and some considerable panache.
Of course it takes a degree of nerve to create such a football ambience – the nerve to make the appointment and the nerve to say: "Yes, we like what we have seen so now do it for us – on your terms."
The point is that football clubs who enjoy ultimate success are not shaped in boardrooms or executive offices – and certainly not by the whims or the sentimentality of the crowd – but the inter-action of a tough-minded, visionary football man and players who have been persuaded that he, rather than some director of football hob-knobbing with the directors and bringing down pieces of stone from the mountain top, is the man most in charge of their professional futures.
Guardiola had that power at the Nou Camp. Within a generous budget, he could pick his players and, if needs be, even change the tactical requirements of the world's most talented footballer, Lionel Messi. Would Guardiola, any more than Mourinho, have lived comfortably with being told to play a Shevchenko or a Torres?
If Liverpool do believe in Rodgers, and his ability to push Liverpool forward significantly, they should grant him the respect necessary for it to happen.
When you re-trace the steps of the most successful clubs, always you find the common denominator of a professional football man who has been given his head.
Mourinho, Guardiola, Sir Alex Ferguson are just the latest examples of managers who have been able to operate according to their own instincts. Arsène Wenger was once asked what his reaction might be to a request to work alongside a football director. He said it would be to head for the car park.
If Rodgers gets the Liverpool job and then fails it cannot be because he wasn't given the chance to build on his earlier work, the kind that has apparently commended him so powerfully to the American ownership. Yet we also hear that the experienced and successful Dutchman Louis van Gaal, who has won three Dutch titles and a Champions League with Ajax and took Bayern to a Champions League final, is waiting to be appointed director of football.
There was also the recent mission statement of Anfield managing director Ian Ayre, who declared: "What you will see over the next few weeks is new people arriving and a momentum of going forward and forward thinking.
"The idea is that rather than one person being responsible for all the elements of the role of Damien Comolli [the recently fired director of football] there will be two or three positions within that."
That's all very well as long as everyone knows who is running the football show. If Brendan Rogers is the manager he should also be the man.