Belfast Telegraph

Brendan Rodgers is still the man for Liverpool job, says Michael O'Neill

By Steven Beacom

Michael O'Neill has revealed how under pressure Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers gave him a much needed lift when Northern Ireland were going through a rough run of results.

O'Neill also outlined his belief that Rodgers will soon have Liverpool clicking into gear, especially when Christian Benteke, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho have an extended run in the side, adding that it is far too early in the season to judge the Anfield manager and his team.

Carnlough native Rodgers has come under increasing scrutiny after some disappointing results this season and enters tomorrow's Premier League derby at Everton with the pressure on following Thursday's 1-1 home draw to Sion in the Europa League.

O'Neill, close to taking Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals, has been watching events at Anfield with great interest.

And for the first time he has spoken about how Rodgers gave him a much needed boost when the Northern Ireland boss was going through a tough time of his own during the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.

"I remember spending some time at Liverpool with Brendan and when I came away it struck me how much he was loving the job even with all the pressure and expectation," said O'Neill.

"I liked the way that Brendan remained positive and got that message through to his players.

"At the time we were struggling with results for Northern Ireland and I came away from my time with him enthused by his approach to his job."

O'Neill is convinced that despite an indifferent start to the season, Rodgers is still the man to help Liverpool.

The Northern Ireland manager, whose side host Greece on Thursday in their latest Euro qualifier, stated: "Brendan is a really good coach and players who have worked under him will testify to that.

"He has a very good way of working with the players and for me I think it is a matter of time before Liverpool really get going, once he beds in the new players and gets Benteke, Sturridge and Coutinho together for an extended run in the side.

"That is a mouthwatering front three and that's even before you think of Firmino and Danny Ings who could play crucial roles this season.

"Having Sturridge back from injury is a big factor. Brendan has been very unlucky not to have had him available for such a long time.

"With Liverpool I always think there is a huge weight of expectation at the club when a new player arrives, more so than most clubs, because the ghosts of past teams were so successful and were such big personalities.

"There are not many players now who hit the ground running at a new club. Philippe Coutinho has become one of the top players in the Premier League but it took him time to get there after signing for Liverpool.

"This season teams have only played seven or eight games and this is not the time to judge.

"Also Brendan will know that he is still learning as a manager and I'm certain his recent experiences with Liverpool will make him an even better manager."

While Rodgers focuses on Everton, O'Neill will hope none of his players are injured this weekend ahead of the Greece game which if won by the home side will see Northern Ireland qualify for the Euro 2016 finals.

West Brom boss Tony Pulis said yesterday that defender Gareth McAuley was out of today's league game at Crystal Palace with a calf injury. The former Coleraine ace will do all he can to make it for the Greek game on October 8 or the game in Finland three days later.

Belfast Telegraph


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