Belfast Telegraph

Now Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers faces biggest challenge yet

By Steven Beacom

It doesn't seem that long ago since Liverpool fans were singing about Brendan Rodgers being the new Bill Shankly.

They were calling the Ulsterman different names altogether after Sunday's humiliating 6-1 defeat at Stoke City.

Those supporters, who had paid good money to travel to the Britannia Stadium, were fuming.

Rightly so. What they witnessed on Sunday was a disgrace, an embarrassment to the shirt. The Anfield outfit were 5-0 down at half-time. 5-0!

Liverpool surrendered. Wearing black shirts, they raised the white flag. Typically, only departing captain Steven Gerrard seemed up for the fight leaving his beloved club with a well taken goal. Next season the skipper, so inspirational for so many years, won't be in Liverpool. He'll be in LA.

In football things can change quickly, but the word from the club last night was that, in contrast to Gerrard, Rodgers will still be at Anfield.

He once told me he runs towards a challenge rather than away from it. Well, right now the man from Carnlough is facing the biggest one of his Liverpool managerial career.

Brendan Rodgers is a confident man. His self belief has been one of the key factors in taking him from coaching kids in a community project at Reading all the way to managing Liverpool Football Club.

Even his inner strength, though, was hit hard by the damaging events at Stoke, hence why in the post-match press conference just two days after saying he was "150%" sure he would be in charge next season, he declared "if the owners want me to go, I will go".

He looked shaken up by the whole sorry episode.

Yesterday, the positivity returned and to use a phrase from Gerrard, he was ready to go again fully believing that the experiences of this season will make him a far stronger and better manager when the new term kicks off.

Between now and then he must try to win the hearts and minds of supporters he has lost. There are many out there.

At the end of last season, although dejected to have agonisingly lost out on the league title, Liverpool fans were buoyed by the future having watched their team produce the most exciting football they had seen since the late 80s.

The feeling was under the leadership of Rodgers they were moving in the right direction.

Then Luis Suarez bit another opponent at the World Cup, joined Barcelona for £70 million and Liverpool's transfer committee, which includes Rodgers, spent all that money and more on players who at times didn't look up to it for Luton let alone Liverpool.

The season became a struggle with Daniel Sturridge spending too much time on the sidelines. Those that weren't injured were insipid.

Even sending Gerrard out on a high couldn't lift them. Throw in the Raheem Sterling contract stand-off and the campaign became a mess, ending with six of the worst against Stoke and a sixth-place finish in the Premier League with no silverware to shout about.

Cue calls for the boss to go. What a difference a year makes. There is no question that Rodgers has made mistakes in that time, but the American owners, if they stick by their guns, are right to give him the chance to rectify them.

The dreadful transfer policy has to dramatically improve for starters. It's the Northern Ireland native's greatest test yet. He'll be well aware if he doesn't pass it, he will no longer be Liverpool manager.


Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers clings onto Anfield job...for now

Brendan Rodgers ready to face the music after Liverpool are thrashed by Stoke Stoke 6 - 1 Liverpool: Potters inflict Reds' heaviest defeat in 52 years

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