Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mr. Rodgers' New Neighborhood

Photo by Ryan Leighty via Flickr

It's a neighborly day in this beautywood for Columnist Scott:

Still smarting from the fact that I was not consulted before Kenny Dalglish was sacked, I now find myself in a conflicted mood regarding Liverpool’s hiring of former Swans' boss, Brendan Rodgers.  I suppose it is mostly because I have yet to thoroughly digest this new development at Anfield but, as Mr. Rodgers dons his cardigan and sneakers, herewith are some thoughts and observations:

I'm a big fan of Roberto Martinez and was disappointed he wasn't selected. His budget-savvy transfers, unflappable demeanor and lemons-into-lemonade coaching abilities, along with my admitted fetish for all things Spanish, made him ideal in my eyes. Just surviving for as long as he has in the EPL, while effectively serving as a farm team for the larger clubs, is a huge accomplishment. Alas, I am forced to continue to admire him from afar and root for his perennial underdog team (except when they play Liverpool, of course).  

Nobody can accuse Fenway Sports Group of a lack of investment or decisiveness.  They will shell out a reported $4M to get the Northern Irishman who shepherded Swansea into the Premier League last year and to an 11th place finish in the top flight this year.  And, in doing so, they kicked a Liverpool legend to the curb.  Sure, both club and Coach said all the right things when King Kenny was dismissed.  The former pointed out that ''He didn't ask to be manager; he was asked to assume the role. He did so because he knew the club needed him. He did more than anyone else to stabilize Liverpool over the past year and a half.''  And the latter offered that ''Whilst I am obviously disappointed to be leaving the football club, I can say that the matter has been handled by the owners and all concerned in an honorable, respectful and dignified way and reflects on the quality of the people involved.''  Those niceties aside, anyway you look at it, it takes balls to ask a legend, who is the last coach to lead you to the league title, for help and then fire him 18 months later.  Hopefully that is the kind of balls that will lead to the next league title.

There are two things that trouble me about the Rodgers appointment, one more bothersome than the other.  The lesser of these two is the fact that just twelve days before Rodgers accepted the job, he refused to discuss the position with Liverpool executives.  Quite frankly, I’m not really sure what that means.  Maybe it was just a negotiating ploy, but it has retreated to the back of my brain, rubbing elbows with ill-fitting toupees, animals that talk in movies and other things that unnerve me ever so slightly.  

More significant, however, is Rodgers’ slim resume.  Only coaching first team football since 2008, he started at Watford before an unsuccessful stint at Reading saw him part company with that organization by “mutual consent.”  Undeniable, however, is the success he has had with Swansea, as everyone knows.  Even so, my concerns are not totally allayed, especially given that the track record is so short.  Try as I might to avoid the comparison, a certain young Portuguese coach, who arrived at Chelsea full of vigor and promise with recent success and a similarly slender CV, comes to mind. 

Fortunately, I’m a certifiable optimist.  So, despite my reservations, I remain cautiously optimistic and look to the positives.  Paramount among these is the fact that with any new coach it is always easier to shake up personnel and, in this case, jettison a few players.  Who those might be I don’t know but I can’t imagine that Jordan Henderson will be getting the same type of playing time next year.  At least not in a Liverpool shirt.  As much as we loyal Liverpool fans like Dalglish, there was a big problem with his players.  It is no secret that his purchases did not pan out as well as expected but it would have been difficult to do a 180 and immediately offload some of those new acquisitions.  With a new coach, however, that is expected as part of the reorganization process.

Sadness (for Dalglish), disappointment (for Martinez) and cautious optimism (for Rodgers) are nervously mingling together, collectively ignoring the toupees and talking animals.  Ultimately and inevitably, however, optimism will bid adieu to caution and accompany Saint Brendan on his voyage to a league title which, in his words, “starts today.”  Let’s just hope he can do it more quickly than the seven years his historical namesake took for that famed voyage.  Amen.

This is farlieonfootie for June 2.

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