Brendan Rodgers says missing out on Tottenham Hotspur job was 'close shave'
Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, has described Tottenham Hotspur's attempt to hire him as manager last year as a "close shave" and declared, while dismissing the notion of considering another job offer from White Hart Lane, that the north London club's frequent sacking of managers put him off any idea of working for them.
The Northern Irishman accepted Liverpool's offer rather than that of Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy, though the Football Association's decision to appoint Roy Hodgson, rather than Harry Redknapp, as England manager was the most crucial factor in Rodgers ending up at Anfield. It delayed Redknapp's departure from Spurs until June 2012, by which time Liverpool's owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) had entered the picture, having also decided that Andre Villas-Boas should not advance beyond their own shortlist as they sought to replace Kenny Dalglish.
"One of the things I looked at was the history," Rodgers said of Spurs' approach yesterday. "They'd had 11 managers in 18 years there so for someone like myself, I needed to create something, I needed to go to a club that was going to give us that opportunity..."
The Liverpool manager, who declared himself "confident" that Luis Suarez would accept the new contract which Liverpool have begun the process of seeking to tie him to this week, observed that Levy's willingness to sanction the sale of Gareth Bale in the summer had also deprived Spurs of an "X-factor". The effect of the Welshman's departure illustrated why Liverpool and FSG had fought to keep Suarez, he added, four days after Liverpool's 5-0 win at White Hart Lane was the catalyst for Villas-Boas' sacking.
"Obviously there have been difficulties from Bale leaving," Rodgers said. "It shows you that when you have someone with that X-factor, sometimes eight, nine or 10 players can't replace that. That was why we fought like tigers to keep Luis Suarez here because he is a top player. He is a performer.
"There are many good players but very few who perform week in week out to that level. I am more than happy with the choice I made to come here and hopefully in time it will prove to be the right one."
Rodgers has seized on the autonomy and time FSG provided to build a side who will go top of the Premier League tomorrow if they win at Anfield against Cardiff City – another club in a state of civil war with the manager. Rodgers launched a trenchant attack on the treatment of the Cardiff manager, Malky Mackay, by that club's own impatient and interfering owner Vincent Tan.
Mackay is preparing himself for the sack and believes that Tan is already lining up his successor. It was suggested the owner is looking to bring in the former Cardiff manager Dave Jones as director of football, though other sources dismissed that as unlikely.
The manager received an extensive email from Tan on Monday outlining in great detail the reasons why he is failing in his job. Mackay has acknowledged receipt of the communication, made no comment to the Malaysian, but expects to be sacked on Monday.
From the start of the season Mackay was aware of the possibility for conflict. The Scot knew that a top-four place by Christmas was likely to be a requirement – ridiculous as that may sound for a newly promoted club. Tan then asked Mackay to resign in October when he sacked the head of recruitment Iain Moody and replaced him with a 23-year-old Kazakh with no experience in the game.
"I find it astonishing what he has had to go through and that is just looking at it from a distance," Rodgers said of Mackay, who was his assistant at Watford before leaving for Cardiff with Moody, with whom both managers have worked. "Malky walked into a club that had given him 10 players," Rodgers said. "Ten players he had that summer [in 2011] and he had to build a new team. They brought in someone who totally transformed the mentality and the culture at the club.
"He took them to the Carling Cup final, to a play-off place and they just lost out. The following season he took them out of the Championship to… become the second team from Wales to get into the Premier League.
"He has started this season with great results and he is going to go on and become a big manager at a top club. You have a business guy, who is operating the club and knows absolutely nothing about football. He has obviously been a very successful businessman in his life. But football is like no other business. Like no other business. People will try and compare and say some of the principles are the same [but they are not]. I would fear for Cardiff [if Mackay moved on]."
The holiday programme will be a severe test for Liverpool, who have not been top at Christmas since 2008, with visits to Manchester City on Boxing Day and then Chelsea three days later. Rodgers' side have yet to demonstrate emphatically that they can beat the elite and the division provides a constantly shifting picture: Liverpool began last Sunday in fifth place. But the extraordinary rehabilitation of Suarez, named Football Supporters' Federation Player of the Year this week, has been a key component of their rising self-belief. The Uruguayan's 17 goals in a mere 11 matches is the most any Liverpool player has scored before Christmas – surpassing the record Robbie Fowler set in 1995-96 when he scored 16 in 19 games.
Rodgers said he had "every confidence" Suarez, who will be 27 next month, would sign a new contract. "I think he feels he's progressed here as a player. No matter how good you are and whether you're 26 or 32, like Steven Gerrard was when I came in here, if you want to become a better player and feel you are improving and see the club progressing then you are happy. And at this moment in time I don't think he can be any happier. I think he is at the happiest point he has been."
Hired and fired: Lethal Levy's sackings
April 2001–Sept 2003
Win percentage: 39.42%
Nov 2004–Oct 2007
Oct 2007–Oct 2008
Oct 2008– June 2012
July 2012–16 Dec 2013