There is an inevitable feeling of shock when someone so utterly convinced by his own ability loses their job. By anybody’s standards of egotism, Brendan Rodgers climbed new heights. This is a man with a huge portrait of himself in his own lounge. If pride comes before a fall, Brendan Rodgers will not hit the ground until the middle of next month.
Even in the build-up to the derby draw against Everton, Rodgers was bullish about his chances in the job. “I am not worried,” he told reporters on Friday. “I don’t want you to take away that the board haven’t reassured me. We have exchanged text messages and I have spoken to Ian Ayre, the chief executive. There is no change there. No drama.” Au contraire, Brendan. Sunday evening drama to rival anything ITV or the BBC can broadcast.
Rodgers’ management speak became almost more famous than his coaching ability – always a dangerous sign. He can now take his time to discover an alternative mentor to himself, teach dogs and cook great meals – if you don’t recognise the Brendanism, look them up. ‘Never become the story’ is the first rule of journalism; Rodgers must learn a similar lesson.
One of the results of this sh*tstorm of management speak, this Brentification, is that it makes it almost impossible to judge Rodgers’ reign at Anfield. Is he the man who took Liverpool back to the brink of the Premier League title, or the fool who let the champagne wash away all of his goodwill?
We may never know, but there is no doubt that FSG would not be pulling the plug so soon after choosing to keep the faith unless they were convinced things were going backwards. Since the end of March, Liverpool have won six competitive matches in 90 minutes. Those beaten sides in full: Blackburn, Newcastle, QPR, Stoke, Bournemouth and Aston Villa.
It is Liverpool’s away form that has provided the most consternation. The away draw at Goodison made it one win in ten away games. Since March 16 they have taken seven points from nine away league games. As Dave Tindall wrote here, his record away from home at the top four plus Everton reads as follows: Played 18, Won 1, Drawn 9, Lost 8, For 21, Against 33. Simply not good enough.
So outrageous was some of Rodgers’ uber-positivity that it was inevitable that he should eventually trip up over his own words. If there is to be one epitaph on the grave of his Liverpool tenure, it is surely the dig aimed at Tottenham after they sold Gareth Bale and reinvested the proceeds.
“If you spend more than £100 million, you expect to be challenging for the league,” was Rodgers’ very public statement; it’s always public with Brendan. Having watched Spurs suffer after losing their best player, Liverpool’s fall from grace after losing Luis Suarez left almost as sour a taste in the mouths of supporters as Rodgers’ subsequent insistence that he could not be expected to achieve any more.
Rodgers’ demands for patience were a psychological trick, created for the very moment he was sacked. “Get rid of me now and you’ll never know what you could have had,” is the rough translation. But there will be few ‘what ifs’ outside the Rodgers household.
Yet there is no doubt that he was given the time and money to succeed. He leaves Anfield having created a squad in his vision, and yet too many signings have not succeeded, and too many players have not progressed. Recent statements from Steven Gerrard putting the blame for the title collapse at the manager’s feet now seem symbolic.
Patience is an odd concept, held in great esteem in football. It’s all very well demanding patience and bemoaning its rarity in the modern game, but it is as foolish as snap judgements when afforded inappropriately. To keep faith in something that is not working is foolish in a sport where the financial gap between success and failure is so great. Patience must be earned. It is a reward not a right.
“Judge me in three years,” was Rodgers’ message to the waiting media upon his unveiling at Anfield. Four months over that deadline, and there is still no definitive answer as to just how good a manager he is, though the performance of his successor will be a strong barometer. The only obvious assessment is this, written in red pen all over his CV: ‘Not as good as he thinks he is.’
“I use a quote with the players,” Rodgers said in an episode of Being Liverpool, when the line between documentary and mockumentary became blurred beyond recognition. “’Per aspera ad astra’, which is Latin for ‘through adversity to the stars’.” That’s an important quote because it actually clashes with his skill-set He is a manager for the good times, excelling in the sunshine but ultimately unable to succeed when the storm clouds gathered. Per aspera ad pavimento.
If there is anyone who can find the positive in being sacked it is Brendan, but optimism alone fails to alter reality. British football management’s ‘Next Big Thing’ of 2014 is out of work. Liverpool have chosen for life away from Brendan’s world.