Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

John Laverty: Brendan Rodgers can help exorcise the ghosts of Liverpool past

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 01: Brendan Rodgers (C) is unveiled as the new Liverpool FC manager by Managing Director Ian Ayre (L) and Chaiman Tom Werner (R) at a press conference at Anfield on June 01, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 01: Brendan Rodgers is unveiled as the new Liverpool FC manager at a press conference at Anfield on June 01, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 01: Brendan Rodgers is unveiled as the new Liverpool FC manager at a press conference at Anfield on June 01, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 01: Brendan Rogers is unveiled as the new Liverpool FC manager at a press conference at Anfield on June 01, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 01: Brendan Rodgers is unveiled as the new Liverpool FC manager at a press conference at Anfield on June 01, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 01: Brendan Rodgers (L) is unveiled as the new Liverpool FC manager by Ian Ayres (R) Managing Director of Liverpool FC at a press conference at Anfield on June 01, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 01: Brendan Rogers is unveiled as the new Liverpool FC manager at a press conference at Anfield on June 01, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 01: Brendan Rodgers is unveiled as the new Liverpool FC manager at a press conference at Anfield on June 01, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images)
Brendan Rodgers is unveiled as the new Liverpool FC manager at a press conference at Anfield on June 01, 2012

One of the quickly cobbled-together ‘profiles’ of Brendan Rodgers informs us that “he doesn’t believe in ghosts.”

So far so good, then. Because, if you buy into the lore, there are quite a few of them currently patrolling Anfield.

Predominant are the spirits of the late Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan who, individually and collectively, made Liverpool the world-renowned football club it is today.

These are the men who occupied the legendary Anfield Boot Room, a cubby hole where the seeds of domestic and European domination were sown in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties.

Sadly, the Boot Room itself is no longer with us — but, we’re reliably informed by the Kop spin doctors, “its spirit lives on.”

There are other ghosts at Anfield, of course, and these ones are very much alive. They don’t need a medium per se — but they do have The Media.

And they use it regularly to undermine virtually everything that’s being done at Liverpool to recapture past glories.

These people, having contributed to the aforementioned halcyon days, believe such a cv gives their opinions more heft.

The passage of time has, however, transformed them from sage-like figures to craggy hecklers. Such transmorphicizing is rarely pretty.

Chief among these ghosts of the past is Mark Lawrenson (below, right), who, along with Alan Hansen (left) formed such a formidable central defensive partnership at Eighties Liverpool ©.

And they’re still inseparable, be it in the Match of the Day TV studio or on the golf course with their old pal Kenny Dalglish.

Lawro believes the decision to appoint 39-year-old Ulsterman Rodgers as King Kenny’s successor is “a major gamble.” Really, Lawro? Is it a bigger gamble than dragging a twitchy, curmudgeonly — and, let’s face it — anachronistically arrogant old man off the fairways and expecting him to recreate the magic of two or more decades earlier?

Hansen, meanwhile, believes Dalglish should have been given more time but Liverpool’s horrified American owners had seen enough — the appalling league form, the frightening overspend on ordinary players, the constant haranguing of reporters asking fair, legitimate questions and, perhaps most tellingly, the nauseating, cackhanded and embarrassing defence of Luis Suarez’s racial misconduct.

To all but the likes of Lawrenson and Hansen, Dalglish himself had become indefensible.

And that’s why Brendan Rodgers — a polite, personable but firm and unflappable individual, bursting with talent, enthusiasm and ideas — is now occupying the Anfield hot-seat.

Liverpool’s owners FSG had tried going back to the past and found out that it should have stayed there; nostalgia really ain’t what it used to be. When we were kings, Kenny...

Now, the Yarks are going back to the future — a future in which Rodgers, who exemplifies and epitomises the thrusting, modern-day football manager — will hope to thrive.

His task isn’t simple, but it is simply spelt out for him — have Liverpool Football Club regularly challenging for a top four finish in the Premier League.

Such relatively limited ambitions would never satisfy multi-European Cup winners like Lawrenson and Hansen — but they apparently exist to (constantly) remind us what Liverpool once were, not what they can reasonably expect to be today.

These ghosts of the past should adopt a more realistic — dare I say spirited — approach to changed times. This is Anfield |. . . in 2012.

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