Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 31 May 2016

Brendan Rodgers will keep Liverpool at top, says old Milk Cup mate

By Steven Beacom

Published 09/05/2014

Big outsiders: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will have to depend on big Sam Allardyce's West Ham side to do him a favour
Big outsiders: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will have to depend on big Sam Allardyce's West Ham side to do him a favour

Brendan Rodgers will continue to challenge for Premier League titles with Liverpool regardless of how this season ends, says former Northern Ireland star Michael Hughes.

While many football pundits have been suggesting in recent weeks that if Liverpool aren't crowned champions on Sunday they will struggle to challenge again next term, with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United strengthening in the summer, Hughes begs to differ.

He is confident that his former Milk Cup team-mate Rodgers will go from strength to strength in charge of the Merseysiders and even contends that Liverpool are on more of an upward curve than anyone else in the top flight.

He has a point when you consider that the Reds finished seventh in the Carnlough man's first season in charge and are just two points off top spot this term entering the final day of the campaign.

From afar, Hughes, one of the most gifted players ever to put on a Northern Ireland shirt, has watched in admiration at how Rodgers has made Liverpool a force to be reckoned with.

"Brendan has been absolutely brilliant. Even if Liverpool don't win the title on Sunday, he has done a fantastic job," said Hughes. "I was a Liverpool supporter when I was younger and my son is a Liverpool fan now and it is great to see what is happening at the club.

"The transformation in the last couple of years since Brendan has been there has been remarkable.

"There are a lot of pundits who say this is Liverpool's best chance of winning the title as other teams will be much stronger next season, but why can't they compete for the title again and win it next season?

"The way they have improved under Brendan and the football they are playing suggests to me that they could challenge once more.

"I know other big clubs are going to bring in new players but Liverpool will strengthen in the summer as well.

"I do feel they will be right up there again next season. Certainly I wouldn't write them off if they didn't win it this year.

"If anything they are the team in the Premier League making the most strides forward, although if they lost Luis Suarez that would be a different story because he is such an important player."

Rodgers has certainly come a long way since he and Hughes played together as teenagers.

"We were involved in the same Milk Cup side for Ballymena," recalls 42-year-old Hughes. "Years later I bumped into him when he was the Chelsea reserve team coach under Jose Mourinho and I was at Wimbledon. He's moved on since and it's great to see someone from Northern Ireland doing so well, especially at a big club like Liverpool."

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