Belfast Telegraph

Defiant Rodgers under no illusions

Brendan vows to not walk away from Anfield but realises his position is under serious threat

By Carl Markham

There was a time when Brendan Rodgers talked about Liverpool as a destination, somewhere he visualised building a dynasty, where a consequence of enduring success would be a statue in his name after he was gone.

Yesterday, as he spoke about his perilous situation, there seemed to be an understanding that, soon enough, life might have to continue elsewhere.

He revealed that one of his ambitions is to manage for 1,000 games. He thinks it might take 20 years to reach the target. There is "no chance" he will walk away from Anfield but, in confessing to being a realist, he knows it might take as many as "five or six jobs" to get there.

Rodgers did not swerve the awkward questions, the last of which was about whether it disappointed him that other managers are apparently happy to be linked to his job.

On Thursday, news emerged that Jurgen Klopp would cut short his year-long sabbatical for a move to the Premier League.

The Belfast Telegraph can confirm that Klopp has had two offers from English clubs since leaving Borussia Dortmund in May. One of them was from West Ham United. He would welcome a third from Liverpool.

Rodgers accepts it as the nature of an industry where peddling news happens at "every level and in particular at this level".

Then he reminded forcefully that 16 months ago: "We nearly won the league and I was manager of the year. Compare that to now."

He considered the benefits of testing experiences, where "you're not so good at your job, when you're actually better".

His future will ultimately be determined by three senior figures from Fenway Sports Group: John W Henry, the principal owner; Mike Gordon, the president; and Tom Werner, the chairman.

Although Gordon does not possess the same percentage of shares in the company as Henry, his say is the most significant as Henry's attentions have been consumed by the Boston Globe newspaper, an acquisition that has opened doors at the top of American society.

Gordon's word was crucial in saving Rodgers in the summer and he is FSG's man on the ground in Merseyside, though at the moment, he is also to be found a lot in Massachusetts where the Boston Red Sox, FSG's primary asset, are in the midst of a slump.

Earlier this month, the Red Sox missed out on the play-offs, marking the fourth Major League Baseball campaign in the last five where they have not qualified - despite winning the World Series in the one year they did.

Liverpool's recent history is similar; they have qualified only once for the Champions League in the last five years and, under Rodgers, went close to winning the league in the season that was achieved.

The parallels suggest there is something FSG is not quite getting right. Maybe Liverpool's problems cut deeper than the presence of Rodgers, who could have been defending himself in slipping in the mention of "the nature of how things are" at a club that has sold "some big, big players".

He refused to criticise the recruitment plan of Liverpool's transfer committee in reaction to those sales, though he contended: "What is clear is in the couple of years I've been here, when we've had the availability of top-class players, I've proven I can build a team that excites and challenges at the top."

Rodgers is at a point where he needs to win convincingly to regain the hearts and minds of fans. Scruffy victories like those over Stoke and Bournemouth are not enough.

Today, Liverpool face Aston Villa at Anfield - a tie Rodgers has not won since his appointment in 2012. His reign was also undermined by losing to Tim Sherwood's side in April's FA Cup semi-final, so this is surely a game he cannot afford to lose.

Emotionally, however, perhaps he is preparing for what happens if he does. "This is an incredible club and all I want is to see it succeed and if it isn't with me, that's for other people to decide," he said.

"I'll walk away and hopefully I'll get into another job. But my focus is still on the now and the now is making us the best we can be."

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