Getting On With It - Brendan Talks to RAWK
Posted by Sarah Deane on September 7, 2012, 07:29:19 AM
Yesterday, Brendan Rodgers sat down with RAWK and a few other websites and was candid about wanting to "get to know us" a bit better, and us him. What was supposed to be a 20-minute meet and greet, turned into well over a full hour, during which the manager touched on recent events, and his thoughts about the difficult few months ahead, focusing particularly on the opportunities now available for our younger players.
It's hardly been the Summer of Love for Liverpool Football Club so far. A first-game loss to West Brom was painful enough. The Europa League play-offs against Hearts, that we perhaps laboured over a little too long, and then a cruel sparring with Man City, where not a single person in the ground thought we should have come away with less than three points, all then led us up the Yellow Brick Road towards the Emerald Summer Transfer Window where, at closing time, we were left with, well, not much really. The window was slammed shut on our fingers, and we're still shaking our hands with the pain. Enough has been wept, shouted and written about what did, didn't, should and shouldn't have happened come 11pm on August 31st, so there seems little point adding to it. But the lack of an extra pair of ruby studs to add to the boot room, is doubtless going to have a significant impact on what happens on the pitch between now and January.
Talking at Melwood yesterday, Brendan Rodgers was unequivocal about his disapproval of a Summer transfer window that encroaches upon the start of a new season. In his view, nothing good can ever come of it. “I've always been an advocate of, when the season starts, the transfer window shuts”, he says. “For me, there's a moral issue to it. You've got players around the changing rooms, who don't want to be there. For clubs, it's not good in terms of getting their squad together.” But it's not only the players who get unsettled. “It's only after the whole thing shuts, that you can get a bit of peace, that you can get on with your work.” he says.
Few people blame Rodgers for the failure of the club to bring in any proven strikers to partner Luis Suarez, but John W Henry's open letter to fans, expressing his own “disappointment” at events, seems to have only temporarily soothed the minds of those who secretly believe that 'American is as American was...'. The manager himself refuses to criticise the owners, saying only that the summer “didn't go to plan”. But anyone who went to the Arsenal game last Sunday, can't fail to have noticed the growing mood of despondency that seems to have flooded into the stands since deadline day. The negativity in the crowd was palpable. I couldn't help but think it was a certain 'type' of crowd in attendance that day. It was eerie, disquieting, and more suited to a team facing relegation, than one just three games into the Premiership season. I did actually hear one 'fan' talking about us as contenders for the drop, as we walked out of the ground. I won't repeat what I shouted back to him.
So we didn't add to our squad? It's done (or, rather, it wasn't...), just move on. Not a whole lot has changed, which I guess is what the naysayers are moaning about, but it's pathetic to watch so many fairweather fans already polishing the guillotine, almost delighting in their own pessimism. Look at it this way, we didn't panic buy, either. The manager admits that player wages at the club are “absolutely astronomical”, and that the squad needed “surgery”. But not bringing in more strikers should now force the club to seriously assess what they do actually have. In short, it's time for the players to step up.
No-one's happy that we have to get through the next four months with a smaller squad than everyone else, but maybe this is the time for certain stars to start shining. Rodgers has always been a fan of nurturing young talent, and at Liverpool he knows he's got loads of it. While he acknowledges that it's hard for young players to break through at a Premiership Club (“where do they go at eighteen, when they can't get in the first team....? They have to go out on loan”), he's also vocal about how those same players can help themselves.
“Not only do they have to have the talent,” he says, “They have to have the attitude, because it's no good them saying 'I'll show you what I'm like, if I get 15 or 20 minutes on the pitch'. You need to show me what you're like every single day of your life.” And now, with his own cherry-picking options drastically reduced, there's never been a better time for the club's precocious youngsters to stand up and be counted. Raheem Sterling is already walking the walk, despite a few famous run-ins with his new boss. “He's responsible [now],” says Rodgers, “He's tactically getting better, and he's a real threat on the field. I'm trying to keep him out of the media, make sure he stays composed and focused, give him the opportunities.”
Those same opportunities could soon also apply to the likes of new boys Borini and Assaidi, and perennial starlet, Dani Pacheco. All a little older and wiser than Sterling, perhaps, but not when it comes to the Premiership, and it's the league where most Liverpool fans want to see us truly compete. Historically, we've always brought players through the ranks. It hasn't happened so much in recent years, but maybe now is the time to start again, even if the necessity has been forced upon us. “A young player will run through a barbed wire fence for you,” Rodgers goes on, “An older player will look for a hole in the fence.” He says it's about balance, a mix of wise heads and fresh legs, which is why losing Lucas again so soon after a lengthy lay-off, has been hard to stomach. “It was bitterly disappointing...because he's one of the disciples, I would say. So to lose someone with that respect within the group, is obviously difficult”.
But with an international break now interrupting the domestic schedule, are the team just drifting towards the next game, rudderless and deflated? Apparently not. “I can see we need some reflection time,” says Rodgers, “So I think, for us, the break has come at a good time.”
An intense and obviously driven man, Rodgers also seems quite spiritual, and obviously trusts his instincts, something every good Liverpool manager has to have in spades. He's also extremely charismatic, and says all the right things, at a time when most fans dearly want to hear them (“Liverpool Football Club has always been about the style...”, “I want to be as open as I can possibly be...” “I wanted to come to a world class club...” etc), but it doesn't mean he's being disingenuous. Those who know him well, have no doubts about his commitment to the club, and his ambitious plans for our future, but he's no teller of fairytales, either. “There's a lot of work to do, in terms of the squad,” he says, “And that's going to take a period of time. There's been a lot of learning taking place, over the course of the summer...and we've ended up with what we've got...but it now gives me a chance to look at some young players, who maybe have not been given the chance before.”
Brendan Rodgers is clearly determined to give the kids a chance, but would this have still been the case if he'd been able to go spending in the summer? We'll never know. But his pull-together attitude and desire to get the best from the squad he has available, doesn't just apply to the youngsters, it seems. “We're in a position where we've got twenty five games, minimum, between now and January, so it's going to be a real stretch...but this is the reason why [the squad] are here. I've spoken to the players, and when they get their little niggles, their injuries, they've got to man-up, got to be harder, got to be stronger”.
January is obviously his next life buoy, in squad terms, but until then, Rodgers is resolute about making the most of what he has. There is no other option. “We're going to have to be creative...” might be the understatement of the season so far, but he seems confident that he's sailing a steady ship. At least now the toxic transfer window debacle is over, he can, in his own words, “get in the boat, set sail, then at least you know that everyone sitting next to you, isn't looking to jump off it.”
EDIT: Redmen TV recorded the interviews here
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