Premier League new boy Brendan Rodgers believes he can now step out of the shadows of his illustrious mentor Jose Mourinho after guiding Swansea City to the top flight.
Carnlough man Rodgers owes his big break at Chelsea to the current Real Madrid boss, and the pair remain close friends.
But Rodgers now believes it’s time he was judged as a genuine top-flight manager, rather than a clone of the ‘Special One’.
“Hopefully this promotion will help people see me in my own right now as a coach and manager,” said the 38-year-old.
“Getting to the Premier League is something I am extremely proud of; it is the major highlight, given that I never had a big playing career.”
He added: “Jose gave me my big chance at Chelsea and we have remained very good friends so I understand why people will want to talk to me about him.
“He actually rang me when I was on the coach leaving Wembley to congratulate me which meant a lot.”
Rodgers earned his position at football’s top table thanks to Swansea’s thrilling 4-2 Play-off final win over another of his former clubs Reading — who sacked him after only six months in December 2009.
“Losing the Reading job has made me a better manager, in my opinion — but it wouldn’t want to experience it too many more times in my career,” he admitted.
Ironically, the last Ulsterman to manage in the Premier League, Martin O’Neill, is being tipped as the next boss of Swansea’s bitter Welsh rivals Cardiff City, who sacked Dave Jones on Monday.