Brendan Rodgers: Northern Ireland is where my heart lies
Family and football. That's what matters in life to Brendan Rodgers. Having got to know him this year, he's a man who enjoys being engrossed in his work. And as we've all seen he's exceptional at it.
He's not so obsessed with it though that he can't see the bigger picture and why his nearest and dearest mean everything to him.
Rarely does he talk about his wife Susan in interviews, but when I asked Brendan about her in his office, there is a twinkle in his eye.
There is also joy when the subject of his six month old grandson Oscar comes up.
And sadness, but enormous pride, when speaking about his late parents who gave him such a steady and loving start to life.
Football man for sure, Brendan Rodgers is also very much a family man and to that end he is planning a big party at home in Carnlough for those closest to him at the end of the season.
It's his way of saying thank you to the people who have supported him on his journey to becoming one of the most respected managers in British football.
“I don't get home as much as I want. It's normally for funerals, weddings or christenings,” he says.
“So my plan is to go back to Carnlough at the end of the season and put on a party for family and friends. The idea is to bring everyone together and share the stories of our parents and keep their memory alive.”
It’s clear Brendan would love his parents to be around to see just how well their boy is doing.
Dad Malachy, who was behind Brendan’s early fascination with football, died last September of throat cancer aged 59.
Just over two years ago 52-year-old mum Christina passed away after a sudden heart attack.
Brendan really is a credit to them.
Two examples: 1. He was generous to a fault with his time at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards in January when he won the Manager of the Year award. At the end of
the evening young hockey sensation and fellow award winner Ian Sloan asked Brendan for his autograph. In turn Rodgers said he wanted Ian’s making the youngster feel 10 feet tall.
2. During our interview at the Liberty Stadium I handed him a small piece of paper to sign an autograph for my Swansea mad taxi driver and his sons. Rodgers sought out individual photographs for the father and kids and then signed a personal message to them.
Let’s just say the cab driver was on cloud nine when handed the pictures. It was as if he had just been given a winning lottery ticket.
“Everything that I am is down to my parents, from the values they instilled in me to be respectful to the morals I grew up with,” says Brendan, who has four brothers. “I lived in a wonderful community in Carnlough which was very family orientated and if you ever thought you would get above yourself they would kick you down.
“My upbringing is important to me. I'm very much from Northern Ireland — a Northern Ireland man who loved his life when I was young and was brought up in a real secure community.”
Brendan met his wife when he was starting out his career at Reading.
When asked about the support she offers, especially when he is working 16 hour days, the Swansea boss says: “My wife Susan is a brilliant, understanding lady. I met her when I was very young at Reading and we've been together ever since.
“Susan is English and her mum and dad are Scottish.
“Her dad was a player at Reading, Shrewsbury and Chester so she grew up in that environment.
“She loves coming to watch us here at Swansea. She doesn't go to the away games — she'd much rather have a life — but she is very supportive of my job and knows it is a real passion and drive for me.
“Susan loves her kids and her grandchild. It's all about the family for Susan, she always says I have enough motivation and ambition for the pair of us.”
Brendan's two kids are Anton, currently playing with Brighton, and 16-year-old daughter Mischa.
Six months ago Anton became a dad and Brendan a grandad.
“When you are a dad you want to do the best for your own kids and make sure they are safe and happy,” he says and then pauses. You sense a memory of his children comes to mind.
With a beaming smile, he adds: “Lately I became a grandad.
“I have to tell you I love being a grandad. Oscar is such a beautiful boy.
“It doesn't matter how much money you earn, if your house is big or small or what car you drive.
“It's irrelevant. As long as your family are healthy and happy, you've got everything.”