Rodgers steels his charges for the tense title run-in
Liverpool manager has already proved his own mettle by bouncing back from the sack by Reading in 2009
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers gestures to his charges during the recent English Premier League clash against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters
There is a transformation comparable to Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool in the Premier League and that is Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers. This time four years ago he was recently bereaved, out of work and unable to land an interview, never mind a job, with a club in League One. Liverpool’s unimagined rise this season provides further evidence that a team really does reflect its manager.
Rodgers has always been driven to succeed but it was seven months spent out of work following his dismissal by Reading in 2009 that steered the 41-year-old towards his present lofty perch. Failure, and specifically the response to failure, is what the man from Carnlough identifies as the root of his success, prompting as it did a rethink of methods that had delivered for Chelsea’s reserve and youth teams plus his first managerial job at Watford.
The Liverpool manager did not have a track record as a coach or player at the highest level to help him back into the game five years ago.
There were supportive calls from the managerial fraternity. Steve McClaren invited him to FC Twente’s closed training camp in the days before clinching the club’s only Eredivisie title but there were many moments of exclusion.
Being turned away from the club car park at Nottingham Forest before a youth cup tie involving his son, Anton, then of Chelsea, hammered home to Rodgers that he was outside football for the first time in his professional career. The Liverpool manager has not forgotten the misery and now makes a point of contacting every sacked manager to extend an invitation to Melwood, the club’s training ground.
Revisiting that defining period, one that has ultimately made Liverpool dream of a first league title in 24 years, Rodgers reveals: “I got the sack on 16 December. It was 5pm on a Wednesday and my first thought was to ring the family to make sure they heard the news from me first. My objective then, because it was the first time in my life I was out of work and out of football, was to make sure it did not spoil Christmas for my family. After that I went to Dubai to reflect for 10 days and started to write in the sunshine about my experience, how it could have been different, what I could improve, what I should take into my next job?
“I was getting ready to go home and my mother [Christina] died on February 3rd [aged 53]. So there I was, out of work, and now had the two biggest voids in my life – the loss of my mother and football.
“I was recovering mentally and decided to go to the gym, get myself fit and then started writing to a few clubs to see if I could get a job, or even an interview for a job. I didn’t get anything.
“There were three clubs. I received a reply from two. Two clubs were in the Championship and one in League One. I didn’t get an interview and so I thought my managerial career was over before it had started.
“Then I got a call from Manchester City and I thought I’d probably have to go in the coaching game again for a couple of years to get my name back. How it all worked out was I was sitting in McDonald’s one day with my two children. I got a call saying Swansea were keen to speak to me. On the Friday of that week [July 16th]I became the manager of Swansea. That, in short, was the seven months.”
Rodgers had six months in charge of Reading and knew he had to be more clinical upon his return to the game. Where players would have five or six games to implement Rodgers’ instructions or find form at Reading, they would get only two or three opportunities to impress at Swansea before being dropped. Darren Pratley, their player of the season before Rodgers’ arrival, was not exempt.
The Liverpool manager will be seeking an eighth successive Premier League win tomorrow against Tottenham Hotspur.
“How you succeed is how you deal with failure. Whatever way you dress it up something hasn’t worked. For the first time in my life I felt I had failed at Reading. I probably read the script wrong, thinking I had three years and instead I had 20 games. I could either disappear and become an academy director, where I’d been for 14 years, or show character and perseverance and go again.
“Thankfully I was able to do that. I certainly have not had it presented to me. I found out the hard way. . . . I suppose that fear of failure is what drives me on.”