Brendan Rodgers: An Insight

Posted by ۩ Maximus ۩ on May 30, 2012, 04:16:59 PM

Brendan Rodgers
DOB: 26. 1. 1973

Brendan Rodgers completely fits FSG's bill. We knew when they bought the club that they would ideally be looking for a younger manager to grow the club over a long period - with a long term plan for ongoing success, just as they had done with the Red Sox.

I don't follow baseball but I think things might be going tits up a bit for the Red Sox recently. However, they did achieve the impossible over there and by most accounts the way they went about it was clever, honest and truly had the best interests of the club and the supporters at heart. And of course, there's Fenway Park.

We are where the Red Sox were - and now they have the chance to really begin implementing their plan. They've sacked nearly everyone at the top and most importantly Kenny. No way am I going to get into whether the Dalglish decision was right or wrong, but here we stand.

I'm no Royhendo so I'm not going to try to put my more complicated thoughts down at the moment but a read of the quotes in the following articles will lead most open-minded people to the conclusion that we might just be looking at exactly the manager we need.

He could be here in 15 or more years and we could be looking back then - or in 5 years or so - as this being a fantastic turning point. We will identify Kenny as having started it anyway, so it won't matter about the pain we feel now.

All this 'proven track record at the highest level stuff' is rubbish - at least it can be if you find a golden nugget.

Clemence and Keegan from Scunthorpe. Shankly from Huddersfield (where they'd just been relegated yet he didn't manage to get them anywhere near promotion). There are many examples.

I quoted this Bill Shankly quotation last week but here it is again:

"My career as a manager took me to Carlisle, Grimsby, Workington and Huddersfield, but during my time with those clubs I never felt that Matt Busby or Stan Cullis, at Wolves, were better managers than me. Not for one minute. I don't mean to brag or boast. Matt and Stan are brilliant men but I knew I had a system of playing and a system of training and I was clever enough to go on with it. I also knew how to deal with people.

What do you think about getting a diamond young manager in - specifically Brendan Rodgers?

A month before Swansea were promoted - Friday 22 April 2011:

Brendan Rodgers: 'The day Jose left Chelsea, it felt like someone had died'

The Brian Viner Interview: The Northern Irishman learnt his management skills under Mourinho. Now he aims to apply them with Swansea in the Premier League

A tiny office, scarcely larger than a broom cupboard, in the Glamorgan Health & Racquets Club just outside Neath would not be Jose Mourinho's idea of a command centre, and yet this is where his protégé Brendan Rodgers, once Chelsea's reserve team coach, is plotting to take Swansea City back to the big time. "I had three and a half years with Jose," says Rodgers. "It was like being at Harvard University."

If this intense, 38-year-old Northern Irishman does lead Swansea back into the top tier, which they last graced in 1982-83 only for one of the most precipitous climbs in the history of English football to be followed by one of the more disastrous plunges, almost into extinction, then he will add a further dimension to his own Harvard analogy, finally graduating from Professor Mourinho's class magna cum laude. But the prospect of automatic promotion to the Premier League has been undermined by a disastrous run of four consecutive away defeats. A fifth, at Portsmouth tomorrow, would make even the play-offs less than a dead cert.

This office is too small to fill with negativity, however, so let's contemplate promotion. They say there's such a thing as not being ready for the Premier League; does Rodgers think the Swans are ready to stick their necks out in such august company?

The ghost of a smile. "I'd say we're similar to Blackpool last year, or Burnley before that. You can't wait until you're ready because you might never be ready. Obviously there are still plenty of things to be done, in terms of infrastructure, and the training ground. We must be the only Championship club that showers with its supporters. So the Premier League and the money that comes with it would help secure this club for years to come. Are we ready? No. But we would jump at the chance to play at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge. The aim this season was to finish in or around the top six. Promotion would be a dream."

Rodgers is keenly aware of Swansea's halcyon period three decades ago, not least because his first-team coach is Alan Curtis, one of the goal-scoring heroes of those years. He knows, too, all about the tumultuous times on the brink of bankruptcy, and indeed the brink of non-League football, averted on the final day of the 2002-03 season. Since then, though, a consortium of local businessmen has restored financial stability, backed up by two notably astute choices of manager. One was Roberto Martinez, now at Wigan. The other is Rodgers, who was appointed last July and has got Swansea playing, in the opinion of some, the most attractive football in the Championship. "My philosophy is to play creative attacking football with tactical discipline, but you have to validate that with success," he says.

Hard work is the other bulwark of his philosophy. The work ethic was forged in the working-class, mostly Catholic village of Carnlough on the Antrim coast, where he grew up the eldest of five brothers, watching his father, a painter-decorator, graft relentlessly to give the family every affordable comfort. "He and my mother set in place the values and morals that are with us to this day," says Rodgers. "They were the best role models we could have had."

At St Patrick's College in Ballymena, his skills as a footballer were spotted by Manchester United scout Eddie Coulter, who more recently unearthed Jonny Evans. It was early in the Alex Ferguson era and Rodgers used to travel to Manchester to represent United at schoolboy level with a lad called Adrian Doherty, a tricky left-winger considered an Ulster discovery almost in the George Best class.

"They called him 'the Doc', and Ryan Giggs, the Nevilles, they will all tell you he was the best player they ever played with at that level. I remember being at Reading with Jim Leighton, who was on loan from United at the time, and he waxed lyrical about 'the Doc'. He was an incredible player, but he got badly injured in a reserve game, which set his career on a downward path, and a few years ago, very sadly, he drowned in a canal, in Holland."

Doherty was just 26 when he died in 2000, all that youthful promise already just fodder for anecdotes. Rodgers' own youthful promise, though far more limited, had much happier consequences. United let him go to Reading, where he captained the youth team and later hovered on the fringes of the first team, but a series of injuries, compounded by the realisation that even at peak fitness he would never cut it at the level he aspired to, made him resolve to become a coach, starting with the Reading youth team.

"From that moment I set off on a journey to be the very best I could be," he says. "Someone told me that if I could speak another language it would help me at a higher level of the game, so I studied Spanish twice a week with a guy called Julio Delgado, whose son was a British tennis player, Jamie Delgado." Rodgers' self-improvement campaign began with football, however, and his reputation as an innovative young coach soon extended beyond the Thames Valley. In 2004 the recently-appointed manager of Chelsea invited him for an interview.

"Jose played 4-3-3, or a 4-4-2 diamond, and he wanted a coach to implement his methodology. As you can imagine I was nervous meeting him, a guy I'd read a book about. But he was brilliant, and made me his first external appointment. He took me under his wing a wee bit, maybe because he saw something different in me, or maybe there was a bit of empathy because, like him, I hadn't had the big playing career. Anyway, that started one of the best times of my life. Jose had learnt from his mentor, Louis van Gaal, and I learnt from him, that there must never be a lazy day in training, and that preparation is vital."

At this point Rodgers takes two strides to the other side of his office and picks up a bundle of diagrams, detailing his forthcoming training exercises. Multi-coloured and minutely detailed, they could just as easily be infantry plans for the Battle of the Bulge. "This is what Jose taught me," he says. "And when the players see them, they are energised. They think 'he's put some thought into this'."

He also took careful note of Mourinho's celebrated man-management skills. "Jose struck a perfect balance between putting them on edge, and supporting them. He'd let them feel the pressure to win, but then be able to take that pressure off them. He could be their friend, or their worst enemy. I'd already worked with Steve Coppell, a fantastic man, very respectful of his players, but here was a guy who took it to a different level, that integration of coaching and management. The day Jose left Chelsea, it felt like someone had died."

Rodgers then worked with Mourinho's successors Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari before deciding that he was ready to become a manager in his own right. "I'd had a great apprenticeship. I'd gone from the park to the peak. So I spoke to Milan Mandaric about the Leicester job, but he decided to go for experience and appointed Gary Megson." The disappointment intensified his desire to get onto the managerial merry-go-round, and in November 2008 he did so, at Watford. Seven months later, he seized the chance to succeed Coppell at Reading. And barely six months after that, the merry-go-round threw him off. It was the first serious bruising of his career, the first stumble downwards in what had been a steady upward trajectory. And it came at the hands of John Madejski, the chairman who had known him since he was a teenager.

"I was at a club I loved, working for people I wanted to do well for, trying to implement things I knew would take time, and I felt I would be given that time. The season hadn't been great, but we were picking up." On 15 December 2009 Rodgers enjoyed himself at the club Christmas party. The next day he was asked to see Madejski at the stadium, without the slightest idea that he was about to be fired.

"But I knew as soon as I walked in. He's a good man, and I know it wasn't easy for him, but it was a lonely drive home. Then, in early February last year, my mother passed away suddenly. She was only 53, a sudden heart attack. I used to speak to her every day, so with losing her, and no football, there were two massive voids in my life. It took a few months and a lot of self-evaluation before I thought about finding another club. I like to win in a certain style, I like my teams to control and dominate games, so I knew it couldn't be any club."

Swansea seemed like a good fit, and on being appointed last summer Rodgers promptly moved his family from Reading, where he had lived since moving from Northern Ireland. South Wales reminds him of home, he says. "It's very working-class, and the people are fantastic. I say to every player I bring here, the likes of Scotty Sinclair, 'don't just come for the football, come and enjoy the life down here'."

It could yet be, of course, that South Wales has a pair of Premier League clubs next season. Does he relish the idea, or has he bought into the fans' notion that nothing except fire and brimstone is to be wished upon Cardiff City? He smiles. "I understand that mentality. A lot of people think Wales finishes at Cardiff. They've put a multi-billion pound investment into the train track from London, and cut it off at Cardiff. But the Premier League will be a better place if it has two Welsh teams, with all that passionate support."

His chances of guiding Swansea to promotion, he adds, have been substantially improved by what happened at Reading. "It made me a better manager, better in every way, and not only for myself but for others. Now, when other managers are removed from their jobs, I'm straight onto them, because you understand what that loneliness is like. I'll never forget what Colin Wanker said to me early on in the season. He shook my hand, and said 'it's brilliant you're back, you can be a top manager, but now you've got to bloody stay in'. That's right. I've been outside looking in, and my aim now is to stay in. Of course I have my goals. I've had a smell of the Champions League with Chelsea, and I want to manage at that level. But I'm looking no further than Swansea as a place to achieve my ambitions."

He might need a slightly bigger office.

Before the play-off final at Wembley - 28 May 2011:

Swansea City v Reading: Brendan Rodgers' Barcelona model is more than a passing phase

'Swanselona': there is more than a little presumption — and more than a little tongue in cheek — in the nickname, but it does express the audacity of the way Swansea City play football.

Independence day: Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers is keen to establish himself as his own man with his own style in the Premiership Photo: PA

By Duncan White

Brendan Rodgers’ team have a fundamentalist belief in passing the ball to each other, something of a heresy in this frenetic division. Swansea's high-Spanish style has taken them to within a game of the Premier League: they face an in-form Reading at Wembley on Monday in the Championship play-off final, a match with its own hyperbolic billing: the £94 million game.

Rodgers, 38, winces a little at the comparison but in explaining what he calls his “ideology”, Barcelona are a key formative model. “I think it was the South Wales press that came up with that one,” Rodgers said of the ‘Swanselona’ tag.

“It was after a number of our games in which we’d made a lot of passes. Obviously you can’t even begin to make a comparison with them, but it does give our players confidence.

“We analyse passes that we make and that is one of our key performance indicators. Nine times out of 10, if we make a certain number of passes we will win the game. It means that we have control and our game is based around control and domination. We want to dominate with the ball.”

So how many passes does it take to win a game? “We average 526 passes per game and our average share of possession is 61 percent,” Rodgers said.

“The players have showed great courage. You have to be brave to play that way. That’s why I’ve been such an avid admirer of Barcelona for years. It is much more difficult to coach a team to win that way than it is to coach a team to win by hitting it long. Much more difficult.”

His commitment to an expansive playing style has deep roots, dating back to his youth. “I was brought up in a traditional British way, 4-4-2 and kick the ball up the pitch,” he said.

“Whenever I was playing as a youth international with Northern Ireland we would play Spain, France, Switzerland and the like. And we were always chasing the ball. In my mind, even at that young age, I remember thinking ‘I’d rather play in that team than this team’.”

He had had a trial at Manchester United as a boy but after a short spell as a professional at Reading realised, at 20, he was not good enough to make it as a player. So he started learning to coach.

“I wanted to be the best I possibly could,” he said. “I had a great education coming through the English FA, did courses with the Scottish FA but I also went out and travelled.

“I went to Spain, to Barcelona, Sevilla and Valencia. These are the best schools of football in the world, how they develop players. Then I spent time in Holland.

That was the ideology of football that I liked. I educated myself, watching, studying and learning. I knew my basic principles but because I had stopped playing early I had the time to go and learn from the very best. And the model was always Spain.”

In Swansea, he found a club receptive to his Iberian ideas. Under Roberto Martinez, they had developed a reputation for playing expansive, passing football and even had a smattering of Spanish players in the squad.

What Rodgers has done is underpin that with an intense pressing game modelled on Barcelona. Serene on the surface but working hard beneath — no need to hammer home that analogy.

“My idea coming into this club was to play very attractive attacking football but always with tactical discipline,” he said. “People see the possession and they see the penetration, the imagination and the creativity, but we’ve had 23 clean sheets this year. So in nearly 50 per cent of our games we haven’t conceded a goal.

“The example of the Barcelona model was a great influence and inspiration to me. When I was at the Chelsea academy, that was how my players would play, with that high, aggressive press, combined with the ability to keep the ball.

"That’s something that we’ve then been able to roll out to here and defensively we play with high pressure and high aggression. Everyone knows their function within the system. It is like an orchestra, if one of them isn’t doing it, you don’t hit the right note.”

Rodgers always wanted to be a conductor but was happy to take his time getting there. After working his way up to become Reading’s academy manager, Rodgers was signed by Chelsea to run the youth team in 2004, something of a culture shock.

“I was 14 years at Reading but I knew it was time to go. I’d only been at Chelsea a week when I got a call from my brother. He asked if I’d seen who was linked with my new job. It was Jean-Pierre Papin.”

Rodgers impressed Jose Mourinho and he was promoted two years later to running the reserve team.

The patronage of the Portuguese helped accelerate Rodgers’ career but, now that he is a manager in his own right (having been in charge at Watford and Reading), it makes him feel a bit claustrophobic.

Even his touchline dash after the play-off semi-final win over Nottingham Forest was taken as an homage.

“I’ve heard all this rubbish about the Mourinho touchline dash... it’s just instinct,” he said. “I’m not sure how long the protege stuff will go on for. I’m proud that he saw something in me, but we’re totally different. He’s one of the most charismatic characters in the world; I’m just a rough Irishman who’s trying to carve out a career as a young manager.

"I’ve always had to do it the hard way anyway and there’s no doubt that if I get to the Premier League people will say it’s him who’s got me there.

"I hope over time, and I’m not being disrespectful to him, I’ll be seen as my own man and someone who has achieved on his own merit.”

Reading welcome back old friend

Reading manager Brian McDermott will hardly be surprised by his rival’s methods this afternoon — he and Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers go back a long way.

McDermott joined Reading as chief scout in 2000 when Rodgers was working with the academy. Under Steve Coppell, McDermott was promoted to reserve team manager and when Rodgers returned to the club in 2009, after his time with Chelsea and Watford, the pair worked together for the 195 days Rodgers was in charge.

McDermott has impressed since succeeding Rodgers, with FA Cup wins over five Premier League teams, including Liverpool and Everton, in two seasons. This season, with 26-goal striker Shane Long to the fore, Reading have lost only once in the league since Feb 12.

“I’ve never had any problems with Brendan; he is a good manager,” said Reading chairman John Madejski. “It didn’t work out for him at Reading, but we always knew it would work out for him somewhere."

May 30 2011 - Reading 2 Swansea City 4 - Play-off final at Wembley. Promoted to Premier League.

Rodgers was dignity personified as Swansea celebrated. The former Reading manager went around consoling the vanquished, embracing his erstwhile chairman, John Madejski.


Breaking with Wembley protocol, they swept up en masse to the players’ bar still in their rain-soaked kit. Some of them were still in there, two hours afterwards, sharing the moment, and a few drinks, with family and friends.

Premier League 2011-12

Some notable results:

5 Nov 2011 - Liverpool 0 - Swansea 0 (Swansea leave pitch to Liverpool fans' applause)
17 Dec 2011 - Newcastle 0 - Swansea 0
31 Dec 2011 - Swansea 1 - Tottenham 1
15 jan 2012 - Swansea 3 - Arsenal 2
31 Jan 2012 - Swansea 1 - Chelsea 1
3 March 2012 Wigan 0 - Swansea 2
11 March 2012 - Swansea 1 - Man City 0 (and Swansea missed a penalty)
17 March 2012 - Fulham 0 - Swansea 3
13 May - Swansea 1 - Liverpool 0

Jan 2012 - Premier League Manager of the Month.

Finished 5 points behind Liverpool.

Before playing Man Utd - 19 November 2011:

Most of an article by Steve Tongue

"I joined Reading at 16 and was about 20 when I stopped playing, recognised I wasn't going to be the player I wanted to be, so I moved into coaching, devoting my life to that."

"My father loved Brazil, loved watching great football. It was very much from television, not live games, but that was something he passed on to me, a real belief in the way the game should be played.

"I was a little winger or central midfield player, more technically gifted than pace and power. I played in Northern Ireland youth international teams and they were always teams set up to defend and to not have the ball. I was not that type of player and didn't enjoy it.

"It was similar at Reading and I just felt there was a better way to play football and I knew there was British talent that could play that way. It's a lot more difficult to coach players to play that way than just to kick the ball up the pitch. But that was my mission really as a young coach, to go and help players to be technically strong and understand tactically the game. That's followed me from my very first step."

The early steps were positive ones, leading him to take charge of Reading's youth team and then their academy, before a highly desirable vacancy occurred at Chelsea when Steve Clarke was promoted to be one of the new manager Jose Mourinho's first-team coaches. "Jose wanted someone to implement that European type of idea and I was one of few British coaches that had that influence and belief. He wouldn't have known me personally, it was more a recommendation but there were loads of applicants and he maybe wanted someone that mirrored him in terms of working at a big club as a young coach. Jose really believed in my qualities and abilities and gave me the opportunity. He put a lot of time into his preparation off the field and was a terrific influence on me."

The admiration was mutual and after making him reserve team manager, Mourinho's was an impressive reference to have when Rodgers became keen to strike out on his own. He joined Watford in November 2008, staying only six months before being swayed by the pull of his old club, Reading, where an upwardly mobile career suffered its first setback; after five wins in the first 21 games of the season, he was sacked.

"My aim going into my first manager's job was to go somewhere for four or five years and prove I could be a manager through thick and thin. But then came the draw of a club close to my heart, that I thought would allow me to express myself and be creative. I was hoping to do a similar job at Reading, even if the process was going to take a bit longer because of the type of players. It didn't work out, which was a massive disappointment because I'd spent a lot of my life there, my children were born there, it was a club that gave me an opportunity as a young coach.

"I've learnt from it and the manager Swansea have today is a big part of the learning experience I got from that. I made mistakes but ultimately it was just the wrong time. My way of working wasn't what they needed at that time so we both moved on."

The next job needed to be the right one and Swansea proved a perfect fit. Lifted up from the lower divisions by Roberto Martinez playing a style of passing football not often seen at that level, they had consolidated under Paulo Sousa. "This was a club that liked the game to be a certain way over a certain number of years, which is why they pick a certain type of manager," Rodgers says. He soon proved his value in the transfer market by bringing in Scott Sinclair, who scored 27 goals last season, including a hat-trick in the play-off final – which was, inevitably, against Reading.

Widely written off, like most play-off winners, as relegation favourites, Swansea have had what Rodgers calls "an excellent start", sitting in mid-table and unbeaten at home. "A lot of these players have come from League Two, most of their career they've only read about these [opposition] players. It was going to take a few games for them to believe they have a right to be in the Premier League. Now there's a sense of that among the group."

Resources have to be carefully husbanded and the memory of previous financial woes caused by irresponsibility remains a useful corrective to over-ambition. In December 1982, when United last visited, Swansea's expensively recruited and well-paid squad had just finished a best-ever sixth in the top division but were starting to tumble back down a vertiginously sleep slope all the way to the Fourth Division whence they came.

Rodgers is speaking in his tiny office at the local fitness centre, where players mingle with the general public. Tempted last summer to sign the experienced Spanish international Marcos Senna from Villarreal, he declined for fear of upsetting the wage structure and team spirit.

"I've spoken to a lot of managers of promoted teams and the common denominator that causes problems is money," he said. "We needed to ensure that wasn't going to be the case. The club has moved very quickly on the field and the infrastructure, the training facilities have to improve. That will hopefully come with success. But you see here today the players mixing with the public, they go in and shower with the public, which keeps them very much grounded."

Probably the best article

13 Jan 2012 - Two days before playing Arsenal:

[thanks to someone on RAWK - can't remember who, possibly Bruiser - for pointing me to this one]

Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers aims to convert long-ball believers

“This is the crusade,” says Brendan Rodgers. He is out to convert you — yes, you — to the enlightened path, preaching the gospel of tiki-taka in the South Wales valleys.

By Duncan White

His pulpit is a training ground by a health club with one AstroTurf pitch, his church the Liberty Stadium, his flock Swansea City Football Club. Rodgers is the evangelist for the beautiful game. Or, more correctly, the beautiful British game. And his congregation is growing.

On Sunday, Arsenal come to Swansea. Arsène Wenger’s side have long held a monopoly on doing things stylishly in the Premier League. Yet this technical game was thought the preserve of an imported elite.

The lack of British players in the Arsenal side for the past decade was evidence, it was claimed, that these foreign ways were beyond the ken of our honest boys.

Now smaller teams have played good football in the Premier League in the past, but none have done it like Swansea. Despite a modest wage bill, Rodgers has built a side who have impudently dominated possession against their supposed superiors.

“This is our philosophy,” Rodgers said. “I like to control games. I like to be responsible for our own destiny. If you are better than your opponent with the ball you have a 79 per cent chance of winning the game.

"For me it is quite logical. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, if you don’t have the ball you can’t score.”

Rodgers says he comes “from a different bottle” to the majority of British coaches. Growing up in a village in Antrim, he grew to share his father’s enthusiasm for the great Brazilian and Dutch teams of the Seventies.

When he played for the Northern Ireland youth sides he barely got a touch of the ball — it was always being punted back to the opposition over his head. He had trials with various clubs, including Manchester United shortly after Mr. Ferguson took over, but ended up at Reading.

At 20 he quit the game, realising he was not good enough to play at the top level. He did, though, think he could coach there.

“I wanted to make a difference. I went to Spain. I was a big lover of Spanish football and spoke the language. I spent a lot of time at Barcelona, talking and working with coaches, finding out about the model and the philosophy of the club. I’d been to Sevilla, Valencia and Betis.

I also spent time in Holland. It was a sacrifice because I had a young family at the time but I had a real thirst for knowledge. I wanted to be the best I possibly could.”

After coaching in the Reading academy he got his big break in 2004 when Jose Mourinho took him on in his backroom staff at Chelsea.

“I always say that working with Jose was like going to Harvard University,” he said.

While Mourinho’s integrated approach to management was a great influence, Rodgers has his distinctive methods. Pep Guardiola is another who has inspired him and his Swansea team are modelled, in their tactical system, on Barcelona. He even sketches out the tactical system on my notepad.

“My template for everything is organisation. With the ball you have to know the movement patterns, the rotation, the fluidity and positioning of the team. Then there’s our defensive organisation.

"So if it is not going well we have a default mechanism which makes us hard to beat and we can pass our way into the game again. Rest with the ball. Then we’ll build again.

“When we have the football everybody’s a player. The difference with us is that when we have the ball we play with 11 men, other teams play with 10 and a goalkeeper.”

Rodgers was cut up to lose his sweeper-keeper, Dorus de Vries, to Wolves in the summer and he realised he was going to need a very specific replacement. He found Michel Vorm.

“British people had said to me he was too small, which was good for me because it probably meant he was good with his feet. When we got the chance to see him I realised he was perfect. He was 27, humble, and makes saves that a 6ft 5in keeper won’t make because he’s so fast. But, importantly, he can build a game from behind. He understands the lines of pass.”

Rodgers’s claims are supported by the statistics.

Swansea’s passing percentages are behind only Arsenal and Manchester City. They do play a greater percentage of passes in their own half than any other side in the Premier League but it is all about being patient. To those raised on the orthodoxy of direct football this is baffling stuff.

“People will jump on us whenever we make a mistake. We had it against Manchester United. Angel Rangel had the ball at his feet and the commentary after the game is that he’s got to kick it into row Z.

"He had time on the ball, why would he smash it up the pitch? He just made a mistake. We need to give our players confidence in their ability. To play this way you can have no fear. The players respect that if there are any goals conceded through playing football I take the blame.

“Here’s another example. We were 2-0 up away at Wolves with six minutes to go but we failed to manage the pressure. We stopped playing it out from the back. We kicked the ball long and they got it and just smashed straight back into our box. Eventually we drew 2-2 and the players were devastated.

"I told them we needed to learn the six-minute game.

“The following week we worked on managing the pressure. But with the ball. Lo and behold the next game we are at Bolton. We are 2-0 up. With 17 minutes to go they go 2-1. You could sense the nerves in the crowd.

"How were we going to deal with it? For 10 minutes Bolton did not get a kick of the ball and, eventually, we got the goal to win 3-1.

"Afterwards in the dressing room it was fantastic — that was how to manage pressure. When they had the momentum we sucked the life out of them.

“Our idea is to pass teams to a standstill so they can no longer come after you. Eventually you wear them down.
We did that against one of the greatest teams in Tottenham. We did it against Manchester United in the second half. In the first half we were playing the history.

"What I said to them is 'now that you know what shirt you are getting, now can you play our game my friends?’ And they did.”

Yet for all the focus on Swansea’s passing, Rodgers is keen to stress that there is a lot more going on.

“People don’t notice it with us because they always talk about our possession but the intensity of our pressure off the ball is great.
If we have one moment of not pressing in the right way at the right time we are dead because we don’t have the best players. What we have is one of the best teams.

“The strength of us is the team. Leo Messi has made it very difficult for players who think they are good players. He’s a real team player. He is ultimately the best player in the world and may go on to become the best ever. But he’s also a team player.

"If you have someone like Messi doing it then I’m sure my friend Nathan Dyer can do it. It is an easy sell.”

Sold? You can make your own mind up on Sunday afternoon whether you want to join the flock.

30 Mar 2012:

Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers insists he is ready to manage a big club

Brendan Rodgers has ruled out an immediate move to one of the ‘big’ clubs in British football but said he is well-equipped to do so at the right time.

By Graham Clutton

The Swansea City manager has been touted as a possible replacement at Tottenham should Harry Redknapp leave White Hart Lane to take over with England.

Although Rodgers dismissed as gossip the latest link, he believes he ticks all the boxes after his experiences at Chelsea where he managed the youth team and then the reserves after being approched by Jose Mourinho in 2004.

“If it arrives, I will be ready,” said Rodgers, who takes Swansea to Spurs tomorrow afternoon. “I had four-and-a-half brilliant years at Chelsea where I got a real feel of the challenge at that level.

“I had to deal with players like Ballack, Terry, Shevchenko, and Lampard. No, I don’t think it’s too soon, but it might be in terms of my personal life.”

Rodgers, 39, took over at the Liberty Stadium two summers ago, on a one-year rolling contract, but signed a new and improved three-and-a-half-year deal last month.

He took the club into this season’s Premier League, albeit via the Championship play-offs, and has taken Swansea into 10th place with 39 points from 30 games.

“People have got to fill newspapers and I understand that. On Monday they will be talking about somebody else. I just need to focus on the job in hand at Swansea.

“It has been a big year for us this year. I need a little reflection time, professionally and personally.”

Still, in terms of self-belief, the Northern Irishman has little doubt that if and when the time arrives, he will be set fair to step into one of the top roles in the game.

Rodgers, who landed his first top-level managerial position with Watford in November 2008 before a ill-fated six-month spell in charge at Reading a year later, said: “People talk about experience, but I was very fortunate to experience working with people like Mourinho and Scolari.

“Some managers will never get that in a lifetime. I also worked in the most successful era in Chelsea’s history. I experienced Champions League games and FA Cup finals. It’s not too early but, of course, the pressures are totally different.

“If that day ever comes, be it at 39, 49 or 59, it won’t be a case of me wondering whether I can work at that level. I have earned the respect of the biggest names in the game, both as a human being and as a coach.”

11 May 2012 - Two days before playing Liverpool on the last day of the season - Another good article:

Brendan Rodgers: Spain have been a great model for me over many years

Swansea's young manager is about to complete an impressive first Premier League season and he is heading to join Vincente del Bosque's Euro 2012 training camp for four days

Stuart James

It is 9am on Wednesday at Glamorgan Health and Racquets club and the cafe is a busy place to be. Fitness fanatics are strutting in and out, a few toddlers are testing the patience of their mothers and those a little longer in the tooth are sipping coffee while flicking through the papers. It is not a particularly unusual scene, apart from the fact that on one table, seemingly oblivious to everything going on around him, a Premier League manager is holding the morning meeting with his backroom staff.

Brendan Rodgers, whose Swansea City side have been such a revelation in the Premier League this season, must feel as if he works in a goldfish bowl. Without a training ground of their own, Swansea make do with what is effectively an upmarket leisure centre, where the public mingle with the players in an environment that feels a million miles from the state-of-the-art facilities and acres of land most Premier League managers take for granted.

Not that Rodgers seems fazed. The only request the Northern Irishman made when he took charge a couple of years ago was to have his own office, which is not much bigger than a broom cupboard and located in a corridor that everyone walks past to get to and from the changing rooms. "This was a physiotherapy room," Rodgers says from behind his desk. "When I came here there was no office. But I needed some sort of privacy. It's not what Arsène Wenger or Mr. Ferguson has but, listen, it's raw and it allows me to work."

Rodgers loves to work, especially on the training field, which has been his "natural environment" ever since he took up coaching at Reading in his early 20s. This week he invited the Guardian to spend a morning with him to talk tactics and to see the training sessions that have helped to produce a Swansea team who have made more passes this season than any other Premier League club. It is a remarkable statistic, although what is often overlooked is how hard Swansea work without the ball. Their pressing game, where they close people down in zones and at speed, is fundamental to the way they play.

"I like teams to control and dominate the ball, so the players are hungry for the ball," Rodgers says. "You'll see in some of our exercises this morning, a lot of our work is around the transition and getting the ball back very quickly. Because I believe if you give a bad player time, he can play. If you give a good player time, he can kill you. So our emphasis is based around our positioning both with and without the ball. And for us, when we press well, we pass well."

Winning the ball back quickly and high up the pitch was a key feature of Barcelona's approach under Pep Guardiola and, as Rodgers explains, is much more sophisticated than it may appear. "You cannot go on your own," he says. "You work on zonal pressure, so that when it is in your zone, you have the capacity to press. That ability to press immediately, within five or six seconds to get the ball, is important. But you also have to understand when you can't and what the triggers are then to go for it again because you can't run about like a madman.

"It's decision-making and intelligence. And this was always the thing with the British player, they were always deemed never to be intelligent, not to have good decision-making skills but could fight like hell for the ball. I believe they have all of the [attributes] and, if you can structure that, then you can have real, effective results."

Swansea are living proof. They go into the final game of the season, at home against Liverpool on Sunday with a chance of finishing in the top 10. Whatever happens, though, it has been a remarkable campaign. They have not only won matches but won them in style, including memorable victories against Arsenal and Manchester City. There was also the goalless draw at Anfield in November, when Swansea were applauded off the pitch by Liverpool fans.

"That was really touching because that is such an historic ground,"
Rodgers says. "But I suppose in terms of performance the highlight has to be beating what could be the champions, Man City. To actually dominate the game as well — we controlled possession, kept passing and kept the confidence and then, eventually, we were able to get the breakthrough. So in terms of where they're at and where we're at it was a defining moment."

It is close to 10.30am and Rodgers is looking at his watch, the cue to dash to the training pitch, which is artificial and belongs to the Llandarcy Academy of Sport and Learning. The grass pitches that Swansea used earlier in the season were dug up and relaid a couple of months ago, leaving them with little option but to train on an all-weather surface. Not that the facilities appear to have any effect on the standard of a training session that is fascinating to watch.

At one stage nine players are working in small teams of three in an area that seems so confined that it is difficult to believe they will be able to run around freely, let alone pass to a team-mate without an opponent intercepting. Yet they manage to do so time and again, often taking no more than one touch before quickly moving to create an angle to receive the next ball. All the while those without the ball are snapping at their heels, pressing with the sort of intensity that Rodgers demands in matches. It is, in short, easy to see why they are so good at keeping and retrieving the ball.

"When I first came in I said to the players, we will push ourselves in every element of training, so it's reflective of the real game, so I don't have to go on about intensity all the time because that is an obligation," says Rodgers, who closely watches training all of the time. "This morning's session is based around football strength, small-space work, lots of options on the ball and covering the principles of our game, which are possession, transition, pass-think, pass-think, pass-think and the core ingredient of hard work."

It goes without saying that Rodgers would like better facilities but the players seem to buy into the idea that Swansea are offering something more valuable than plush locker rooms and rows of immaculate training pitches. "There is only a certain type of player that will come here, a player that is hungry and a player that wants to develop his talent," says Rodgers. "You get the raw materials here in this moment but they're arguably the most important materials, which are time and quality on the training field."

They also get to perform for a manager who has a clear philosophy on how his team should play. Rodgers talks about four phases that underpin Swansea's approach when they have the ball. "There is the building and constructing from behind, the preparation through midfield, the creativity to arrive in the areas and then the taking of the goals. These are all areas that we have to continually improve on but that is the basis of our game and it doesn't change."

One of the few criticisms levelled at Swansea this season is that they often keep the ball in their own half or in areas where they are not hurting the opposition, although that argument is flawed in several respects. Rodgers points out that, while the primary reason for possession will always be to penetrate, the simple fact is that, while Swansea have the ball, the opposition are unable to score. He also says that by "recycling" the ball for long periods his team are able to recover. "The only time we rest is when we have the ball," the 39-year-old says. "When we haven't got the ball is the moment for intense pressure to get the ball back. But you can't go for 90 minutes, so in order to recuperate and conserve energy, we'll do that sometimes by building our way through the game — our tiki-taka football, our small lending games to keep the ball.

"When we're stuck in the game, we go back to our default system, which is possession."

Always open to fresh ideas, Rodgers has been exploring an alternative system, which he tested in the 4-4 draw against Wolves last month, when Swansea changed from 4-3-3 to 3-4-3. He also hopes to have a few more tricks up his sleeve after spending four days with Spain at their Euro 2012 training camp in Austria later this month, as a guest of their manager, Vicente del Bosque. "Spain have been a great model for me over many years, so I always take the chance where I can to travel and understand new methods," Rodgers says.

Before then, however, Swansea aim to finish off their season in style. Rodgers, back in his office after training, points to four words scribbled on a whiteboard. "Our motto was that there, Per Ardua Ad Astra, which means through adversity to the stars. Because this is what we're in, a real adverse situation," he says. "So this weekend is about celebrating success. For us to stay at this level, for the players, my staff, the club and the supporters, it is an incredible achievement."

What's in a day: Swansea's training routine

10am, Warm-up The players begin their warm-up on the tennis courts in the fitness centre, where they do some core work. Then they have agility work and relay races on the training pitch

10.45am, Keep-ball The players are split into two groups and those on the outside, who are allowed only one touch, try to keep the ball off the two in the middle

11am, Six v three Remaining in two groups of nine, the players are split into three teams of three within each group. In a confined area, 10 yards by five yards, each team of three takes it in turns to try and get the ball off the other six players with the aim of scoring in the small goal sat either end

11.15am, Twelve v six The players move to a bigger area, 40 yards by 30 yards, and this time it is six versus six in the middle, with full-size goals and goalkeepers at either end. The other six players are located on the outside and are on the side of the team that has the ball, effectively making it 12 v six

11.45am, Shooting Midfielders and forwards stay behind for a shooting session

Midday, Finish The sessions are 25 minutes shorter than normal at this stage of the season

12 May 2012 - The day before playing Liverpool:

Brendan Rodgers defends Kenny Dalglish's record at Liverpool

"I don't believe their season has been a failure, he has been in the process of rebuilding.

"When he had the second half of last season there he did a terrific job, he renewed the motivation in the group and city, and this season he has reshaped the squad.

"It's the beginning of a process that he hopes in the future will bring success.

"But that's the problem with being a manager; it's like trying to build an aircraft while it is flying.

"You don't get time to put it in the hanger and do everything you need and send it out there, you have to try and do it while it's flying and that's what he is in the process of.

"He has a history of success at the club as a player and a manager.

"He has a strong team behind him but unfortunately everyone looks to the short term, but he has done a terrific job and he will look to develop and grow next season."


Thousands of supporters are expected to turn up to the Liberty Stadium dressed as Elvis for today’s final match of the season after Rodgers put out a rallying call to Swansea fans.

He asked for supporters to dress up as ‘The King’ at today’s game as a dig at bookmakers who gave better odds of Elvis being alive than Swansea avoiding relegation at the start of the season.

Rodgers’ idea has caught the imagination of the Swansea supporters and they are expected to set a new world record for the number of people dressed as Elvis in the same place.

He said: “I have been taken aback by the interest. Someone from the Valleys drove down to the Liberty Stadium a couple of days after I said it with a cake with a Swan dressed as Elvis. It’s absolutely phenomenal.

“It is just something to make people smile. Football is global, but it’s also about fun. It’s an entertainment and we must not forget that.”


“I thought Liverpool were excellent in midweek and Andy Carroll was really impressive.

“It shows it’s a totally different pressure when you play for a big club like Liverpool. You are expected to win every single game and it was new for him.

“The adaptation takes time and forget about the football, it was a life change.

“He was bought for the long term. He didn’t put the price tag on his head. He’s a young kid who I have seen come through the England ranks. It was always going to take time.

“But we are starting to see the first real performances that you think he can go on and become a really fantastic player for Liverpool.

“He looked lean, mobile and great in his physicality the other night and his touch was good.

“He got a boost from his cameo in the FA Cup final and he’ll be coming here to do well.”


“I don’t think Kenny’s been a failure. He’s got them to two cup finals, winning one and going close in the other one.

“Liverpool is an incredible club with history of winning leagues and European Cups, but the reality is they are trying to build back towards that.

“The Liverpool supporters and public probably see no better man to do it. He’s had a history of success at the club, both as a player and manager. He has the ultimate respect.

“He has a brilliant coach in Steve Clarke, who I know well and speak regularly to so he has a strong team behind him. It just takes time.”

After beating Liverpool,,10354~2771208,00.html

"It was a fairytale ending. In terms of the performance, the players were brilliant. Our work-rate was phenomenal and we were worthy winners. Everyone talks about our passing and creativity, but behind all that is a great amount of hunger and work ethic and to achieve 14 clean sheets, is a tremendous achievement."

More about the man himself:

He Speaks Spanish and is learning Italian.

He has strong connections with England, Scotland and, of course, Northern Ireland.

He's 39 years old (40 in June) - but he's grandfather.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Brendan Rodgers: Northern Ireland is where my heart lies

Family and football. That's what matters in life to Brendan Rodgers. Having got to know him this year, he's a man who enjoys being engrossed in his work. And as we've all seen he's exceptional at it.

He's not so obsessed with it though that he can't see the bigger picture and why his nearest and dearest mean everything to him.

Rarely does he talk about his wife Susan in interviews, but when I asked Brendan about her in his office, there is a twinkle in his eye.

There is also joy when the subject of his six month old grandson Oscar comes up.

And sadness, but enormous pride, when speaking about his late parents who gave him such a steady and loving start to life.

Football man for sure, Brendan Rodgers is also very much a family man and to that end he is planning a big party at home in Carnlough for those closest to him at the end of the season.

It's his way of saying thank you to the people who have supported him on his journey to becoming one of the most respected managers in British football.

“I don't get home as much as I want. It's normally for funerals, weddings or christenings,” he says.

“So my plan is to go back to Carnlough at the end of the season and put on a party for family and friends. The idea is to bring everyone together and share the stories of our parents and keep their memory alive.”

It’s clear Brendan would love his parents to be around to see just how well their boy is doing.

Dad Malachy, who was behind Brendan’s early fascination with football, died last September of throat cancer aged 59.

Just over two years ago 52-year-old mum Christina passed away after a sudden heart attack.

Brendan really is a credit to them.

Two examples: 1. He was generous to a fault with his time at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards in January when he won the Manager of the Year award. At the end of

the evening young hockey sensation and fellow award winner Ian Sloan asked Brendan for his autograph. In turn Rodgers said he wanted Ian’s making the youngster feel 10 feet tall.

2. During our interview at the Liberty Stadium I handed him a small piece of paper to sign an autograph for my Swansea mad taxi driver and his sons. Rodgers sought out individual photographs for the father and kids and then signed a personal message to them.

Let’s just say the cab driver was on cloud nine when handed the pictures. It was as if he had just been given a winning lottery ticket.

“Everything that I am is down to my parents, from the values they instilled in me to be respectful to the morals I grew up with,” says Brendan, who has four brothers. “I lived in a wonderful community in Carnlough which was very family orientated and if you ever thought you would get above yourself they would kick you down.

“My upbringing is important to me. I'm very much from Northern Ireland — a Northern Ireland man who loved his life when I was young and was brought up in a real secure community.”

Brendan met his wife when he was starting out his career at Reading.

When asked about the support she offers, especially when he is working 16 hour days, the Swansea boss says: “My wife Susan is a brilliant, understanding lady. I met her when I was very young at Reading and we've been together ever since.

“Susan is English and her mum and dad are Scottish.

“Her dad was a player at Reading, Shrewsbury and Chester so she grew up in that environment.

“She loves coming to watch us here at Swansea. She doesn't go to the away games — she'd much rather have a life — but she is very supportive of my job and knows it is a real passion and drive for me.

“Susan loves her kids and her grandchild. It's all about the family for Susan, she always says I have enough motivation and ambition for the pair of us.”

Brendan's two kids are Anton, currently playing with Brighton, and 16-year-old daughter Mischa.

Six months ago Anton became a dad and Brendan a grandad.

“When you are a dad you want to do the best for your own kids and make sure they are safe and happy,” he says and then pauses. You sense a memory of his children comes to mind.

With a beaming smile, he adds: “Lately I became a grandad.

“I have to tell you I love being a grandad. Oscar is such a beautiful boy.

“It doesn't matter how much money you earn, if your house is big or small or what car you drive.

“It's irrelevant. As long as your family are healthy and happy, you've got everything.”

Top 10 Pass Completion 2011/12:

1. Man City - 85.9%
2. Swansea - 85.7%
3. Man Utd. - 85.3%
4. Chelsea - 85%
5. Spurs - 84.8%
6. Arsenal - 84.6%
7. Fulham - 82%
8. Liverpool - 80.9%
9. Wigan - 80.4%
10. everton - 77.3%

Top 10 Average Possession 2011/12:

1. Arsenal - 59.6%
2. Man City - 57.7%
3. Swansea - 57.6%
4. Man Utd - 57.3%
5. Spurs - 56.3%
6. Chelsea - 55.4%
7. Liverpool - 55%
8. Wigan - 49.9%
9. Fulham - 48.9%
10. Wolves - 47.8%

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