Martin O'Neill still big boss, says Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers is relishing the task of taking on fellow Ulsterman Martin O'Neill in the Premier League today safe in the knowledge that he is about to be offered a new long term deal at Swansea City.
Rodgers, (38), has been a huge success at the Liberty Stadium and is now considered one of the most coveted young bosses in Europe.
He is on a one year rolling contract at present but with Swansea keen to keep him a bigger and better deal is expected to be signed by the end of the month after Rodgers held fruitful talks with his chairman Huw Jenkins on Wednesday.
“It should be fairly straightforward,” Rodgers said.
“There are obviously items I need to ensure around the contract, and likewise the football club, but I don't foresee any difficulty and I am sure in the near future we can get the solution.”
Carnlough man Rodgers has been earning rave reviews all week for the way his Swansea side played in their 3-2 home victory over Arsenal last weekend.
They will hope to follow it up with another win today at Sunderland, who themselves have been rejuvenated since the arrival of O'Neill.
The Black Cats were unfortunate to lose at Chelsea in their last outing but previously O'Neill had guided the north east outfit to wins over Blackburn, QPR, Wigan and a stunning 1-0 success against league leaders and title favourites Manchester City.
Former Northern Ireland skipper O'Neill, who replaced the sacked Steve Bruce last month, has taken Sunderland out of relegation trouble into mid-table and if his side are victorious tomorrow they will go above 10th placed Swansea.
O'Neill is a big admirer of what Rodgers has achieved in his managerial career to date and the feeling is mutual.
The Swansea boss, fresh from winning the Manager of the Year prize at the Belfast Telegraph Sports awards on Monday night, can't wait to tackle his countryman.
“It's great to have Martin back in management,” said Rodgers.
“He's a fantastic character and you only have to look at what he has done at Sunderland to see how good a manager he is. He has gone in there and he has lifted the team, got good results and they have climbed the table.
“We know we are in for a tough match at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, but I'm really looking forward to it.
“It will be terrific to face Martin, who has been a flagbearer for Northern Ireland as a player and manager. I'm a big admirer of Martin. It will be good to have a chat with him after the match.”
Rodgers is very much the man of the moment in the Premier League.
You can talk all you want about Roberto Mancini, Sir Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp fighting it out at the head of the division, but for former Reading boss Rodgers to have steered his side into the top half of the table is one of the stories of the season to date, especially when you consider that back in August the Welsh outfit were huge favourites to be relegated and return to the Championship following their dramatic play-off final success over Reading last summer.
The way Swansea play the game — with an attractive passing and pressing style that is reminiscent of Barcelona — has everyone in football talking and thinking about making bids for Brendan's gifted players.
Typically Carnlough's finest — a genuine guy as well as a top manager — takes it all in his stride.
“We did well against Arsenal and it was great to beat them, but to be honest I think we have played better on other occasions this season,” said Rodgers.
“The fact that the match was with a great club like Arsenal and all their fantastic players and that it was on prime time television has made more people take notice of us.
“That is something we will deal with.
“The players are wonderful to work with and we are enjoying our experience in the Premier League and we hope to continue to enjoy it until the end of the season.”