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Long-term readers - hi Pete, hi Chris - will recall that we've talked about Brendan Rodgers before. In happier, more innocent times, we gently took issue with his self-proclaimed 'philosophy', suggesting that anybody who claimed to have such a thing was in fact engaged in a cynical act of self-inflation; that they were dressing up the ordinary as the remarkable, then requiring extra respect for their trouble.
Well, doesn't Profile365 look silly now? Not because were wrong - we're never wrong - but because that philosophy, the suffocation-by-possession, has been thrown out of the window quicker than you can say "how the hell do you throw an abstract concept out of a window?" Rodgers's's's''s's's''ssssss'' Liverpool now do counter-attacks. They now sit back without the ball and absorb pressure. They even - oh! the savage barbarians! - score from set-pieces, an arrangement of ball plus human which, by its very nature, has little impact upon the truly important stats.
This heresy has seen Liverpool rise, yeastily, to fourth in the Premier League, and even the most hard-hearted of Rodgers-sceptics has been forced to acknowledge that he's doing something that reluctantly might be admitted to look a bit like a decent impression of a passable attempt at a competent or maybe even approaching excellent job. But no matter! Fortunately for everybody, the arrival of the results hasn't prevented Rodgers from sharing his true gift with a grateful nation: the saying of silly things. Recent entries to the Catalogue of Brendan include:
- "I think it is a good signal [that five British players faced Arsenal] and a good statement, especially for young British players...Since I started as a young coach, British players were told they were not technically good enough or not tactically good enough. I set out on a journey to prove that wasn't the case"; this, as noted by our notable colleague Mediawatch, being in reference to amongst others Jordan Henderson, whose departure to Fulham Rodgers authorised in the hope of acquiring notable not-English person Clint Dempsey.
- upon being asked, after yesterday's last-minute win over Fulham, what kind of horse Liverpool might be: "I don't do that kind of stuff. We just concentrate on our football," before mutting something about "chihuahuas running between horses' legs".
- and, in what seasoned observers are already referring to as Peak Brendan: "I came here to try and inspire the city as much as the team."
All thoroughly amusing. However, while the stick he wears for the things that fall out of his mouth is doubtless justified to a certain extent, it's becoming increasingly obvious that it doesn't really matter. That unless you (a) own Liverpool, (b) play for Liverpool, or (c) support Liverpool, then he doesn't really care what you think about what he says.
The utterances of football folk, particularly managers, are often held up against such traditional measures as 'common sense', 'factual accuracy', and 'consistency with previous things that have been said or done', which is to slightly miss the point. Proper, decent football managers say things for two reasons: either it gains them an advantage of some kind, or they just fancy saying it. Either way, accuracy isn't really the point. Nobody ever handed out league points for fact-checking, as Rafa Benitez will tell you.
Take the above quote about British players. On the one hand, the idea that Rodgers is on some kind of crusade to restore the glory of these islands is obviously nonsense; it's not supported by the players he's attempted to buy and sell, and if the opportunity arose to replace Raheem Sterling with Lionel Messi, he wouldn't be saying no. On the other hand, imagine how utterly brilliant it must feel to be a young British footballer and to hear your manager talking that way. Even if you suspect they're being a bit silly, you'll take it. And you'll enjoy it. And you'll feel good about it. It's like your mother telling you that you're the very best whimsical football columnist in the game. You know it's not true, but it's still nice to hear.
As for that stuff about the city of Liverpool, wherein Liverpool Football Club can be found; again, it's obviously silly. Brendan Rodgers as a combination of Dick Whittington and Batman, sent to liberate the Scouselands from the forces of
Manchester United evil. Joe Allen as Robin, or the cat. But again, it must feel good. After all, football clubs - back when they were extensions of civic identity rather than extensions of soft corporate power - were supposed to be things of the city, things of the town, things of the people. Things that through their endeavour and excellence could elevate a collection of ordinary folk into something communal and sublime. Or at least something communal and happily drunk.
Obviously, all this is contingent on results; this piece would look more than a bit stupid if last night hadn't seen Fulham sascha themselves painfully in the riethers. There are plenty of holes to be picked in the Liverpool renaissance: a thin squad escaping examination thanks to a lack of European football; a defence composed of a collection of set-up lines, punchlines and Jon Flanagan; an attack that depends on its two main members maintaining, respectively, a startling purple patch and an even more startling lack of red mist; a freedom that stems entirely from having already exceeded expectations; and so on, and on. All solid points, all may prove to be relevant and true in the long run.
But not immediately. Day to day, absolutely nobody is having as much fun as Liverpool fans right now. Not even the fans of those teams that are more likely to win everything. And if there's a point to this whole stupid business that we spend so much time thinking about, then making the people that matter feel good about themselves can't be too far from the heart of it. That, perhaps, is what's most surprising about the whole situation. It's not anything as grand as a philosophy. It's simple common sense.