Belfast Telegraph

Brendan Rodgers' new Liverpool signings must shine, says Phil Neal

By Steven Beacom

Liverpool legend Phil Neal believes the time to judge current boss Brendan Rodgers will be at Christmas, insisting that the club's signings in this transfer window must deliver much more than those who arrived at Anfield last summer.

The Reds have had a mixed start to the campaign winning at Stoke City, beating Bournemouth at home and drawing away to Arsenal before losing 3-0 on Merseyside against West Ham on Saturday.

After finishing sixth in the Premier League last season, a year after almost winning the title, there is much focus on Ulsterman Rodgers, who has been backed by the American owners with big money arrivals Christian Benteke, Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne coming on board.

All three and other new arrivals, such as James Milner and Joe Gomez, have shown promise, but need to deliver consistently.

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Neal, who won eight league titles and four European Cups with Liverpool, says it is vital they shine in the weeks and months ahead after many of last summer's recruits including Mario Balotelli, Dejan Lovren and Lazar Markovic flopped.

"In the Premier League the expectancy is ongoing especially for a massive club like Liverpool and as the manager Brendan is responsible for getting in a challenging position and winning trophies," said Neal.

"Brendan knows the pressure and is well aware he has to take the club forward. There has been investment in players this summer and the reality is that it has to prove much better than the investment in players when Liverpool spent the money they received for Luis Suarez's move to Barcelona last summer.

"Today managers and players are judged very early in a season. A more sensible time to assess is around Christmas. That's when I'll start making judgments about Liverpool this season and if progress is being made.

"Personally I want Brendan to succeed. He was so close to winning the title a couple of years ago when his team produced the best football my eyes have seen since I left Liverpool.

"I'm not sure if it will be possible to see that quality of football this season but I really would like us to shoot a bit more."

Neal spent 11 success laden seasons at Liverpool having joined the club in 1974. The full-back was Bob Paisley's first signing.

Now 64, Neal will be in Northern Ireland on Thursday, with fellow Liverpool heroes Ian Callaghan, Alan Kennedy and Jimmy Case, featuring in the acclaimed stage show that tells the remarkable story of the legendary Paisley.

"I believe Bob Paisley was the best manager of them all. His simplicity and organisation, strength of staff and uncomplicated way of doing things set him apart, along with all the trophies he won," said Neal.

"I don't think he would have liked all the pitter, patter pass, pass, pass football we get so much of today. He liked us to get the ball in the box believing that's where we could score goals."

Neal has a soft spot for Northern Ireland and hopes that along with his own country England, who he played for 50 times and coached as part of Graham Taylor's managerial team, they reach the Euro 2016 finals.

"Northern Ireland are in a good position to qualify. All the home nations are. I hope they all make it to the Euro finals," said Neal.

"It would be a great boost for Northern Ireland if they did qualify."

Bob Paisley: Reluctant Genius will be at the Omniplex, Antrim on Thursday, September 3. Tickets at £25 are available by calling 028 9446 8283 or in person at Moes Grill, Junction One, Antrim.

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