I’m a bore, me. I bore people about football, I bore people about footballers, and I bore people about football managers. And if you’d given me more than 200 words for this piece, I’d bore you all here as well.
And when Liverpool beat Norwich 3-2 on 20 April 2014, I went in to full on bore mode. That was it, I said, they’ve won it. They’ve ended that long wait for a league title. I was convinced. And I was wrong.
But Brendan Rodgers helped create that situation. He helped create a team that was the most exciting in the country. A team that didn’t have the best players – although it did have THE best player – but that found a way to compete with the better sides, to beat them, batter them, frighten them.
What’s happened since, of course, we all know. It’s been downhill; frustrating, annoying, relentless. Anfield, a beautiful place when things are going well, has been angry, irritable, at times apathetic.
He’s a rich man, Brendan, and he doesn’t need my support by any means, but it’s not been nice to see a Liverpool manager take so much flak over the past few months. The vitriol has been as ugly as some of the Reds’ worst performances.
But it wasn’t all bad for Rodgers at Liverpool, no matter what some would have you believe. In fact, for 19/20ths of a season, it was the best a generation, including this bore, had seen.
Sum up Rodgers’ time at Liverpool in a word? Nearly.
It’s the hope that kills you. Such was the fate that befell Brendan Rodgers, who made the mistake of almost winning the Premier League title with Liverpool.
Gerard Houllier finished second, and was gone within two years. Rafael Benitez lasted barely a year after coming up short.
Now Rodgers has been giving the boot less than 18 months after one of the most thrilling, exhilarating Liverpool seasons in a generation.
Certainly, in 15 years covering the Reds there wasn’t anything quite like the final four months of the 2013-14 Premier League campaign, when they produced arguably their most eye-catching attacking football since the 1987-88 vintage of Barnes, Beardsley and Aldridge.
Maybe the cup treble year under Houllier ran it close in terms of pure drama. But nothing truly compares with the raw excitement of the team in which Rodgers harnessed the talents of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Steven Gerrard and upcoming duo Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho.
The win over Arsenal was a genuine highlight, although my personal pinnacle came with Suarez’s shot that crashed against the post.
In some ways, it encapsulated the Rodgers reign. At times incredible, but not quite the desired finish.
Liverpool – their players, their fans, arguably the manager – never quite got over the way the title challenge faltered at the final hurdle. And that’s why Anfield regulars just couldn’t bring itself to contemplate yet another squad rebuilding programme – a change was needed.
Hopefully, history will be kind on Rodgers. He did his best and has utter faith in his methods. They just weren’t quite good enough to succeed in the current Liverpool landscape.
Sum up Rodgers’ time at Liverpool in a word? Frustrating.
Snaking through the streets which, eventually, would lead to Anfield Road, a dense, red mist filtered up my nostrils. Ahead, prior to kick off against Chelsea in what was essentially a title-deciding fixture, was a huge swell of people welcoming the home team bus as it crawled into the stadium.
Banners were being waved, songs were being sung, smoke bombs released to add colour to the setting – and a few problems to anyone with asthma, admittedly. The stadium was buoyant, alive, and full of belief.
That was less than 18 months ago. That was a magnificent time for the football club. That, in part, was because of Brendan Rodgers.
It’s easy to ignore a lot about Rodgers’ reign. Ignore 2013-14 as a whole focusing on what followed; ignore the intelligent tactics and lay it all at the feet of Luis Suarez. Ignore, fundamentally, how he made a team and its supporters dream.
His critics, plentiful and vociferous, are right to point to his failings. The end to the last campaign was unforgivable, the start to this one not much better in terms of lifting the mood. The signings, whoever made them, were either not good enough or implemented well enough.
But he leaves Liverpool, arguably, in a better state than he found it. The progress was ultimately not enough after over three years and £300m spent.
As the club edged towards progress, however, it took the most fantastical detour. Given football is meant to be fun, he should be waved goodbye with that in mind, more than anything else.
And a little bit of resentment he couldn’t recreate it one more time.
Sum up Rodgers’ time at Liverpool in a word? Enigmatic.
Of course I see the arguments in favour of sacking Brendan Rodgers – I just don’t think he was the main problem at Liverpool Football Club.
He is undoubtedly a good coach, capable of developing players and an intelligent, thoroughly modern manager.
Mistakes undoubtedly – principally in cahoots with the transfer committee in recruitment, possibly in believing his own publicity a little too much – but weren’t we all in this together? What’s wrong with patience, loyalty and the long game?
You don’t need me to talk you through the second half of 2013/14, where his wonderful team almost achieved the preposterous.
He ultimately failed because FSG could not attract or, in other cases, keep the world’s best players but he certainly should have done better with the ones he had in the last 14 months.
His removal means the owners’ Plan A has failed.
Plan B looks like being Klopp’s charisma or Ancelotti’s respect and esteem.
In the short term it will probably bring about at least some improvement but I think sustained success will only come with changes more fundamental than simply the name on the manager’s door.
Sum up Rodgers’ time at Liverpool in a word? Committ-ed
Dominic King of the Daily Mail, summed it up perfectly that day. February 8, 2014.
‘If they keep scoring at this rate, it will end 19-0 to the Reds’, he calculated aloud.
Martin Skrtel (2) Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling had scored four goals inside the first 19 minutes as Brendan Rodgers’ Reds blitzkrieged the Gunners.
It ended 5-1 as the run rate slackened.
But it was a remarkable Liverpool performance and not atypical that season – one dominated by the goals of Luis Suarez, a player who that day didn’t for once get in on the act.
It was a display fitting of any of the great Liverpool sides of the 60s, 70s and 80s. And better than very many of them.
A sign too that in Rodgers, Liverpool had an unstoppable young manager as well as an unstoppable side.
Many still say it was all down to Suarez that season. But that was the same Luis Suarez who had been hoping to be in the Gunners’ side that afternoon – his public summer demands for a transfer to the Emirates all too evident.
The same Luis Suarez too who was consequently banished to train alone at Melwood by the Reds boss, until he repented. Some tune Rodgers got out of him after that!
Suarez has gone. Now Rodgers has gone too. But memories remain of an incredible 19 minutes that shook the Kop – and simply blew the Gunners away.
Sum up Rodgers’ time at Liverpool in a word? Cruel.