Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Applause for Brendan Rodgers: David Moyes could learn a lot from Liverpool boss

Top boss: Brendan Rodgers has made Liverpool top four contenders again after taking over from Kenny Dalglish during the summer of 2012
Top boss: Brendan Rodgers has made Liverpool top four contenders again after taking over from Kenny Dalglish during the summer of 2012

It was just after Liverpool's fourth goal in an exhilarating 19 minute spell against Arsenal on Saturday. Brendan Rodgers lifted his arms to the heavens and flashed the broadest of smiles.

This was his team, playing his way and playing it to perfection. This was exactly what the Carnlough native had imagined when he agreed to become manager of Liverpool Football Club.

This was the 'death by football' he demanded as early as his first day in the job.

And this was made all the sweeter by the fact that the opposition was Arsenal.

Two years previously I had sat in Brendan's small, windowless office at the Liberty Stadium when he was in charge of Swansea.

We were chatting about other clubs when Arsenal cropped up in conversation.

Rodgers talked admiringly about Arsene Wenger and the footballing philosophy the Frenchman had instilled throughout the Emirates.

It appealed to the natural born leader in Brendan... a man with the personality and drive to encourage and inspire others to follow him.

At the time he was doing it at Swansea, and even though it was only his first season as a Premier League boss, you knew here was a man destined for bigger things.

His chance came that summer when Kenny Dalglish was sacked by Liverpool's American owners and Rodgers, then 39, was chosen to replace him.

Brendan may have been considered the Prince of Wales by Swansea supporters for leading them into the top flight, but most Liverpool fans did not believe he was fit to replace the King, suggesting he didn't have enough experience, had little pedigree or wasn't a big enough name.

The truth is had Pep Guardiola taken over from Dalglish he would have beet met with some resistance such was the devotion towards Kenny on the Kop.

It didn't help Brendan that with so many of Dalglish's old pals working as television pundits, they weren't shy in sticking the boot in when positive results were hard to come by early on as the new boss attempted to put his stamp on the team.

Rodgers, though, knowing that the squad he inherited was nowhere near good enough, stood firm and to his credit never flinched in how he wanted his team to play... pressing and passing... passing and pressing with solidity at the back and style in attack.

Slowly he recruited players meeting his standards, and sold others who didn't, and in the latter part of his first season victories followed even without the suspended Luis Suarez, who had bitten off a bit more than he could chew.

Rodgers came through a testing time in his debut campaign as boss of a worldwide sporting institution and look at him now in season number two.

Manchester United manager David Moyes and the club's supporters would do well to learn from the experience of their biggest rivals. It can take time to get it right.

When Rodgers was being criticised, crucially he never lost faith in himself. Moyes must do the same, otherwise he might as well walk away from Old Trafford right now.

Brendan has gone from being doubted and mocked to being feted and hailed in the space of a year.

Good guy he may be, but he's hard too and as determined as they come, illustrated by his tough tackling of Suarez in the summer when the Uruguayan was shouting to all and sundry about his desire to leave Liverpool.

Rodgers didn't wilt under pressure, the player remained and has flourished since coming back from his ban.

The 41-year-old fluent Spanish speaker has transformed Suarez from a gifted but dangerous individual to a selfless and sensational performer mentioned in the same breath as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo!

Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge have also flourished under his guidance while Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling are two young talents blossoming before our very eyes.

Then there's Steven Gerrard, or 'the ultimate' as his manager was described him to me in his Liverpool office (much bigger than the one at Swansea and with windows), who is playing wonderfully well in a new deeper position specifically chosen by the boss.

There have been some stunning performances from Liverpool this season, at home to Everton and away to Spurs in particular, but the best came on Saturday in that breathtaking 5-1 thumping of Arsenal, the long time Premier League leaders with the best defensive record in England who had not lost at Anfield in the league for seven years.

How Liverpool dismantled the Gunners reminded me of how Dalglish's great 1987-88 team containing John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, John Aldridge and co devastated opponents on their way to title success.

Rodgers may be right in saying that Liverpool won't win the Premier League this season with Chelsea and Manchester City so strong, but fourth place and Champions League football next season is now theirs for the taking, which would represent a successful campaign, with the promise of better to come for the Anfield outfit.

In recent years when Liverpool were a mess on and off the field, all the fans had was faint hope in their hearts that things would turn.

Brendan Rodgers has given them belief as well.

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