Quote unquote: Brendan Rodgers builds an aircraft

Matt Stead

Brendan Rodgers is an easy man to mock. That’s largely because he himself makes it easy. He paints a giant target of derision on his back and invites everyone to take their best shot. You can take your pick, really: it could be because he has the aura of a man fantastically pleased with himself, and absolutely certain of whatever it is he is pleased with; it could be the large painting of himself hung in his own home (a gift from a local charity, sure, but come on); it could be his astonishingly white teeth.

But mainly it’s the things he says. The internet is bulging with lists detailing the finest Brendanisms, one on a website not a million miles from here. Everyone has their favourite, and there really is no wrong answer to this. You could have the one where, while Swansea manager, he declared it was “great for the public here at Sunderland to see us,” after a game at the Stadium of Light because “they must have been wondering what this team everyone is talking about are all about and now they have seen. We were wonderful.” Swansea lost that one 2-0.

You might prefer the time he said he “doesn’t train players. You train dogs. I like to educate players”. Perhaps you favour the toilet book philosophy number of: “I’ve always said that you can live without water for many days, but you can’t live for a second without hope.” Or maybe the identification of his “biggest mentor” is more your thing. Himself, apparently.

A personal favourite of your correspondent though, is one of the many sensational quotes taken from his interview in Mike Calvin’s book ‘Living On The Volcano’, for which Mr Calvin must receive plenty of credit for not dissolving into the most raucous fits of laughter. There’s plenty to choose from, but it’s his evocative description of his running route in Liverpool (which from the sounds of it was also in 1971) that takes it. We can probably assume that he followed everything he said with “…Rodgers quipped”, but Calvin was too polite and edited it out, but here goes:

“I love to run on the streets around here. I love seeing the people going about their business. These are our people. I love running late in the afternoon, when the doors are open and the dinners are on, and you can smell the mince cooking.”

Brendan is, largely, a bullsh*t machine. But bullsh*t is usually determined as bullsh*t through the prism of results. You can pretty much do or say what you like, and if you win something then it will be attributed to whatever that is. Take Claudio Ranieri, for example. You might recall an interview he gave to Gazzetta dello Sport last season, around the time that everyone thought ‘bloody hell, they might actually do this you know’, in which he outlined exactly how Leicester were performing this miracle.

The long and the short of it is that he said he kept things very simple, that he more or less carried on what Nigel Pearson had done in the previous season and didn’t offer anything else especially groundbreaking. “I told the players that I trusted them and would speak very little of tactics,” Ranieri said. “It was important to me that they all ran hard, just as I’d seen them running towards the end of last season.”

The nice thing about this is it could equally be used as a reason for Leicester’s success, or if they happened to be losing every week, their failure too. If they were at the bottom of the table, Ranieri’s laissez faire attitude would look like neglect, like he was doing bugger all for his money and that they might as well have stuck a shaved chimp in the dugout. But as they were implausibly at the top of the Premier League, many nodded and reasoned that that keeping things simple and trusting his players was the last word in managerial shrewdness, that less is indeed most definitely more.

And so we come back to Brendan. You’ll remember that in that toe-curling and punctuationally questionable documentary ‘Being: Liverpool’, Rodgers told his team he’d written down the names of three players he knew were going to let him down that season, and placed them in envelopes. He was derided as the worst sort of fraud, a charlatan using techniques last seen on a PWC team-building weekend. He might as well have taken them paintballing and have done with it.

And yet you’ll probably also know that Alex Ferguson did exactly the same thing in 1993. Gary Pallister called it a ‘masterstroke’. The only difference between the two was that Rodgers had nary a medal to his name and Ferguson had just won Manchester United’s first league title in 26 years, that season did the double and would go on to win loads more.

And that’s why on the occasions that Rodgers does hit on a good line, it’s filed in the same Brentian category as the rest of his wallyish pronouncements. Which is where we finally reach the subject of this week’s Quote/Unquote, when Rodgers said: “The problem with being a manager is it’s like trying to build an aircraft while it is flying.”

Nobody at Football365 has ever been a top-level football manager (to our knowledge), or close to it, and thus it’s impossible to know what being one actually feels like. But Brendan’s description sounds exactly what it must be like. You’re expected to get results, play attractive football and win things, as soon as possible please. You have to educate (Brendan) your players at the same time as playing.

All the while, everything is zipping past you at a frantic speed, to the point where it’s almost impossible to see anything, let alone react to it. You generally don’t get time to really think about anything, and basically just have to figure everything out as you go along. And in what little thinking time you have, 50,000 people are bellowing their own thoughts in your ear.

It’s a bit like trying to paint with someone constantly telling you “I would’ve gone with a blue, there”, but at many, many decibels. Or, if you like, trying to build an aircraft while it’s flying.

Brendan can indeed bullsh*t like few others. But every now and then, he comes out with a good line.


Nick Miller