Swansea City manager Brendan Rodgers deserves to dine at top table
Suffering the humiliation of the sack from your dream job could have been the start of a downward spiral for many managers — but not Brendan Rodgers.
The Carnlough man had high hopes of leading Reading, the club he played for before injury cut short his career, to the Premier League before his dream turned into a nightmare.
Having failed to produce results in his first five months in the hot seat, the 38-year old was sacked in December 2009.
Having earned a reputation as a respected coach at Chelsea previously, and then as a manager with Watford, Rodgers’ confidence could have taken a fatal battering.
But after seeking advice from his mentor, Jose Mourinho, the disappointment was put into perspective and he was soon back in the game with Swansea last summer.
His brief was simple — stay in the Championship. Not only did he do that, he managed to guide them to promotion, the first Welsh side in the history of the Premier League.
“Taking Swansea City to the Premier League, the first Welsh club to play there, is something I am extremely proud of,” said Rodgers.
“One of the biggest learning curves I will ever have was when Reading sacked me after only six months.
“When it came, I took a bit of time to reflect on what had happened and took only positives from the entire experience.
“Reading were my club, I had played there and it was supposed to be the perfect match, but it was the wrong time for both parties.
“I still have a lot of respect for them and don’t have a bad word to say about John Madejski, and I was glad we shared a moment after Monday’s game.
“Since my sacking at Reading, I am less sentimental about the game, and probably more cynical.”
Given his history with the Royals, it was perhaps fitting that the proudest moment in Rodgers’ career to date would come at the expense of his former employers.
Rodgers has also revealed how a man who has experienced the highs and lows England’s top flight has to offer even predicted the outcome of the promotion chase.
He added: “The last time I shared a taxi with Carlo Ancelotti after a League Managers’ Association dinner he told me the footballing gods would dictate we beat Reading in the Play-off final and this game has a habit of doing things like that.
“Carlo managed to beat his former club Juventus with AC Milan in a Champions League final and Jose Mourinho knocked Chelsea out with Inter Milan a few years after being sacked.”
Having been denied the opportunity to reach the top level as a player, much like Mourinho, Rodgers has worked his way up from the bottom as a coach, becoming a student of the game.
And with his dream within touching distance on Monday, he allowed himself to be swept away in the moment.
“I actually did something I try never to do on Monday during the game; with just a minute to go, I let my mind wander away from the job in hand,” he explained.
“At that stage I knew we had won and I went through my journey in football like a movie in my mind, from primary school in Carnlough to my playing career, coaching career and now gaining promotion to the top flight as a manager.
“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.
“Thankfully that is not something I’ve had thrown at me down the years however, proba
bly because I have grafted and studied and then built up a reputation as a coach.
“I would hope people would respect me for what I have managed to do up to this point.”
Having defied the odds by taking Swansea to the Premier League, Rodgers is ready to continue that trend by staying there, unlike last season’s entertainers, Blackpool.
He added: “Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking just shows the pressure at the top level and I know that is something I am going to have to get used to in a bigger way now. The Premier League is global and I want to enjoy it with the beliefs I have in how we should conduct ourselves.
“We are going to go for it; we don’t want this to be a one-season wonder.
“I won’t be content with us just dipping our toe in the water but at the same time we can’t jump in with both feet. I’ve already had a good chat with the chairman and we will invest, but sensibly.
“I’m really looking forward to the challenge; we will play creative and attacking football but we will be disciplined at the same time. We are very different to Blackpool. We have similar ideas in how the game should be played but as exciting as they have been, we put a lot of focus on discipline at the back and build from there.”