Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is the extra special one

Brendan Rodgers has lead Liverpool to the brink of winning this season's Premier League title

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers stands just three games from greatness. To think that last season with indifferent results early on in his reign some critics were suggesting he could be three games from the sack!

Liverpool's owners wisely had faith in their boss and just as important, the boss had faith in himself and the courage of his convictions to stick to his footballing philosophy.

How that belief has paid off. Rodgers is now respected by all. The adulation and admiration will increase in the weeks to come if the Ulsterman manages to lead the Reds to a first title in 24 years.

And this after arriving in 2012 with the club having just finished eighth in the Premier League table. With Liverpool five points clear at the top, Crystal Palace and Newcastle are to come but first it is second placed Chelsea on Sunday on another atmospheric Anfield afternoon.

That's when the three games from greatness will begin... Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho could claim he knew Rodgers was destined for such a fate a decade ago.

That's when Mourinho made him Chelsea's youth team manager. Two years later, the Chelsea boss put Rodgers in charge of the reserves and was so confident in his ability that it wasn't long before the county Antrim accent was heard working with the first team.

Back in 2004, Rodgers was inexperienced, coaching kids at Reading, but Mourinho was clever enough to spot something special in the enthusiastic Northern Ireland native and took him under his wing.

In turn Rodgers was intelligent enough to learn from one of the best, once saying watching Mourinho work was like having 'a Harvard education in football management'.

The Liverpool boss is not too proud to admit that those lessons from the master, exactly 10 years his senior, helped propel him to where he is now.

"I probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. He gave me the self-esteem and confidence that has prepared me greatly for the role I am in today," said Rodgers earlier this season.

"I was very fortunate to work with someone of that calibre for just over three years. He was brilliant for me. I was a 30-year-old nobody who worked in youth development, who was assigned to come in and work with him.

"From the first day of meeting him, he gave me the responsibility and accountability to work at that level. There are not many managers that would have done that.

"I was in pole position to learn and I wasn't going to miss that opportunity, hoping that one day I could follow in his footsteps at a leading club. Thankfully, my career has progressed to one of the best institutions in the world. It seems a long time ago now, but it was all part of my journey and my story."

Rodgers, 41, is not one to forget those who have helped him on the way up and will always hold Mourinho in high regard, but he is no mirror image of his mentor.

Both may have been born on January 26, but they are very different people.

Rodgers for instance does not do mind games.

He prefers to play the beautiful game. His Liverpool side are doing just that and are arguably the most appealing side to watch in Europe at present. What they desire is a stunning title success to go with it.

Mourinho's team selection for Sunday will come under scrutiny after suggestions he will rest senior stars ahead of the Champions League semi-final second leg with Atletico Madrid.

Regardless of who is in the line-up, Jose's tactical brain will pose a test for his protege.

But demanding the high intensity pressing, passing and penetration, which have become the hallmarks of Liverpool's game, Rodgers, an extra Special One, has what it takes to come through the examination and take another step towards greatness – and glory.

Rodgers close to emulating historic success of Ulsterman Kyle

Should Liverpool go on to win the Premier League, it won't just be a cause for celebration on Merseyside... the people of Northern Ireland can toast the success too because one of our own will have delivered it.

Carnlough native Brendan Rodgers is doing the country proud, just as Belfast man Bob Kyle did over 100 years before.

Rodgers is on the verge of emulating Kyle's 1913 achievements by becoming only the second Ulsterman to lead his team to the English title.

While Brendan is delivering with Liverpool, Bob shone at Sunderland.

His story is a fascinating one. It started at Distillery, where he virtually ran the club between 1897 and 1905.

Officially the club secretary, he was also the manager/coach and just about everything else you can think of. He was master of all he surveyed and made the Whites the most successful Irish League club at that time.

He guided Distillery to three league titles, two Irish Cups, one City Cup, three County Antrim Shield and one Belfast Charity Cup.

Bob just couldn't stop winning. Even when top English sides came to play friendlies at the old Grosvenor Park ground, Kyle had the midas touch. Distillery were the talk of the town when they defeated Sunderland 3-1 in April 1904.

Lisburn Distillery club historian Dawson Simpson says: "Bob didn't just have a great record in Irish League football, he also knew how to inspire his players when facing English teams. Distillery always played well in those games, especially when they defeated Sunderland. Sunderland were very impressed and offered him the chance to work for them."

Kyle took over as manager of the north east club in 1905 and stayed in the role until 1928.

He is the longest serving boss in Sunderland's history, taking charge of a massive 817 games either side of the First World War, with the highlight being a title success in 1913 when winning Division One in the Football League.

Kyle's Sunderland finished that season four points clear of Aston Villa and a legend was born. The same status awaits county Antrim man Rodgers.

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