Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, from the sleepy fishing port of Carnlough, is just four games away from historic league title

By Adrian Rutherford

Brendan Rodgers, the man from the sleepy fishing port of Carnlough, stands on the brink of greatness.

Rodgers is now just four games from guiding Liverpool to an historic league title, ending a 24-year wait on Merseyside for English football's most illustrious prize.

If he does, he will become the first Northern Ireland-born manager to guide a team to glory in England's top division.

The Reds took a major step towards the league crown yesterday, with a thrilling victory over title rivals Manchester City.

On an afternoon heavy with emotion, as supporters marked the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, a late goal sent them two points clear at the top of the table.

Fans gathered in bars in Carnlough, a normally sedate village on the Antrim coast, to watch the game.

Four more victories will be enough to win the league.

And if Liverpool do go on to secure a first title since 1990, Rodgers will have played a huge part in their success.

The 41-year-old has been credited as a key factor in the renaissance of a sleeping giant of English football.

His tactical nous, successful man-management and stylish attacking play have won admirers right across football.

But nowhere more so than his native Carnlough, where Rodgers' success has transcended the sometimes tribal nature of club football.

Gerry Burns, a Liverpool fan who runs The Bridge Inn in Carnlough, said Rodgers' exploits had captivated everyone.

"The bar was buzzing today. We had Man United and Chelsea fans in and everyone was cheering for Liverpool – it's just remarkable," he said. "Brendan's brother, Declan, would do a bit of DJ-ing here.

"Any time Brendan pops by, he will remember the names of everyone sitting at the bar. He's a gentleman and we are all delighted for him."

Sean Davison, a Manchester United fan, also praised Rodgers' influence.

"He has done fantastic and is undoubtedly one of the favourites for manager of the season. As a United fan, I hope rumours linking him with Barcelona are true," he said.

Rodgers' rise is all the more noteworthy given his unremarkable playing career.

He started out as a defender at Ballymena United before being signed by Reading. However, a genetic knee condition forced him to retire at 20.

After a period of travelling to Spain to study coaching methods, his big break came in 2004 when he was invited by José Mourinho to join Chelsea as youth manager, later being promoted to reserve manager.

He moved into management at Watford and had an unsuccessful spell at Reading – departing after six months – before relaunching his managerial career in south Wales.

Rodgers' achievements in guiding Swansea City into the Premiership and avoiding relegation in their first season caught the eye of Liverpool, leading to a move to Anfield in 2012.

Now, less than two years into the job, he stands on the brink of history.

Yesterday's victory was their 10th on the spin and they did it the hard way, taking and then losing a 2-0 lead before Philippe Coutinho's late winner.

Rodgers said: "I give a lot of credit to the players. Our performance level, particularly in the first half, was quite sensational.

"My message to the players is to continue. We don't need to change."

For Rodgers and Liverpool, it is now a simple equation. Four more wins and they are champions.

For the next few weeks, everyone in Carnlough is supporting Liverpool.

Liverpool 3 Manchester City 2: Brendan Rodgers' Reds take giant step to first league title in 24 years after Philippe Coutinho's late strike secures thrilling victory

Manager bringing glory days back to Mersey giants


Brendan Rodgers was appointed manager of Liverpool Football Club in the summer of 2012.

At the time many fans of the Merseyside outfit, already upset at the sacking of the iconic Kenny Dalglish, were not convinced the Carnlough native was the man for the job.

Less than two years on, Rodgers is just four victories away from becoming one of the most revered and respected figures in the club's long and successful history.

What the Co Antrim man has achieved in such a short space of time is astonishing.

He's the most talked about football manager in Britain, having inspired his team to the top of the Premier League by playing stunning, spectacular football, reminding Liverpool followers of the glory days from the past.

On the Kop now they sing a song about Brendan comparing him to the great Bill Shankly. Yesterday the number was given several renditions as Liverpool defeated Manchester City 3-2 in an epic encounter, taking the Reds a major step closer to what at the start of the season would have been considered mission impossible.

Liverpool to win the Premier League? There would have been more chance of Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness joining the Jim Allister fan club or Stephen Nolan going on a sponsored silence or the Northern Ireland football team winning twice in a row or.... you get the drift!

Liverpool finished eighth in the Premier League the season before Rodgers joined and seventh in his first campaign. They are now top of the table with just four games to go.

Win them all and the Reds will celebrate a first league title in 24 years...

Graeme Souness, Roy Evans, Gerard Houllier, Rafael Benitez, Roy Hodgson and Dalglish have all come and gone since 1990 without reaching the Holy Grail.

The man from Carnlough is almost there. If he delivers the title it will be one of the greatest managerial feats of this or any other age – and he won't just have done Liverpool proud, he'll have done his family, friends and Northern Ireland proud.

Belfast Telegraph


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