Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Appointing Brendan Rodgers was a gamble for Liverpool... new contract is a safe bet

Doing it for Brendan: Liverpool stars Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez enjoyed playing for Rodgers last season

Brendan Rodgers walked alone around the pitch inside an empty Anfield on his first day as manager of Liverpool Football Club.

The Carnlough native wanted to get a feel for the place as he contemplated how far he had come and considered the challenges that lay ahead. Outside the stadium that afternoon, some Liverpool supporters questioned his appointment when asked for their opinion by various media outlets.

'King' Kenny Dalglish had departed against the wishes of most fans and in his place had come a 39-year-old Ulsterman with just one Premier League season in charge of Swansea behind him.

Fans were wary of this new kid on the Kop – and worried.

Two years on there are NO doubts about Brendan Rodgers, who yesterday agreed a new deal which should keep him at the club until at least 2018. Every Liverpool follower backs him now. They have become disciples of the Rodgers way.

He no longer walks alone – the reception and appreciation he received from the Anfield crowd on a lap of honour after the final game of the season last month was as heartfelt as it was hopeful for the future under the intelligent individual from county Antrim.

The fans love him, not just because of the results and fantasy football he is inspiring on the pitch but for the manner in which he has embraced Liverpool's rich history off it.

Interviewing Rodgers early in his reign, when he was encountering a difficult spell, I was surprised to see the walls of his office at the Melwood training complex plastered with pictures of previous triumphs.

Managers before Rodgers feared the successful past. He decided he would be lifted by it.

That first season may have been tough going at times but in the second part of the campaign, with the Rodgers philosophy hitting home to the players, there were signs that better was to come.

Going from seventh place in the Premier League to runners-up just two points behind champions Manchester City a year later, however, was way beyond what even the most optimistic fan thought possible.

Liverpool scored 101 times in the league playing the most entertaining, enterprising, explosive and exhilarating football in England... and the best seen at Anfield since the 1987-88 campaign when John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, John Aldridge, Ray Houghton, Steve McMahon and Ronnie Whelan destroyed the opposition.

Modern heroes Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho excelled while skipper Steven Gerrard enjoyed a new lease of life and Luis Suarez moved on to a different planet altogether.

And this after Rodgers had displayed his ruthless streak by playing hardball with the Uruguayan when he was demanding a move last summer.

Liverpool fans savoured seeing their side hammer the likes of Arsenal, Spurs, Everton and Manchester United and the players relished being part of this bright red dawn with Gerrard insisting that Rodgers was the 'best man manager' he had ever worked with.

The owners of Liverpool were listening and watching.

Rodgers is now the master of all he surveys at Anfield, a classy character with the courage of his convictions and confident in his ability to take the Reds forward.

To do so, with extra commitments next season, he's well aware shrewd signings must be made to strengthen the squad and not just in defence, the area which cost the team title success.

Rodgers will target Premier League glory in 2015 and is excited by fulfilling a long time ambition of being a boss in the Champions League, where in time he could prove to be a major success.

Fenway Sports Group made a big call when appointing Brendan. That gamble has paid off. Giving him a new contract seems a safe bet. Under the Ulsterman, Liverpool will continue to go from strength to strength.

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