I am not a man naturally given to hate save for drivers who neglect to use their indicators, that aspic jelly in pork pies, anything remotely Tory, Brendan Rodgers, soaps that sensationalise horrific aspects of life then put a helpline at the end to cover their back, Cheryl whatever-her-name-is-these-days, Twitter accounts that nick content without credit, Brendan Rodgers, people – including and especially my girlfriend – touching my belly button, The Sun newspaper, Mumford and Sons, Brendan Rodgers, anyone who says “for my sins”, immigrant-obsessives, kettles that never boil…oh, and Brendan Rodgers.
It’s a loathing that first sprung forth the moment he took on the Anfield job and began manipulating Reds by quoting wholesale the club’s mythologies. “The Liverpool family”, “I’m humbled and privileged to be a part of this great football club”, “The fantastic people of this city” and, most revealing of all, “Liverpool football club is the heartland of football folklore”. Like a hideous lovechild of David Brent and Carla Lane he would spew out the Idiot’s Guide To Liverpool Platitudes always delivered with a croaky over-sincerity and a very, very serious mush.
But was I alone is sensing a distinct whiff of politician baby-kissing from his constant aggrandizement of LFC, a peddling to the cheap seats of folklore and greatness that was not his to peddle? One of his predecessors Kenny Dalglish – who won actual trophies and stuff during his reign – rarely felt the need to talk up the club, probably because it was largely due to him that it became so special in the first place. With King Kenny it would just be boasting.
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Rodgers had no such problem nor class. Each and every interview or presser amounted to a cloying sermon from a home-made pulpit, with parables repeated ad nauseam on how Liverpool is more than a club, it’s a religion. He even had the front to remix some of the classics. The famous ‘pass and move’ became “death by football” while the ‘Liverpool way’ evolved into “We play with 11 men. Other teams play with 10 men and a goalkeeper”. On that note I’ll return briefly after chundering into this sick bucket….
Okay, I think I got it all.
Not only was all this condescending in the extreme to its intended audience who regrettably bought into it willingly – a cult’s trick if you will – there was also a monstrous ego at play, a vainglorious crusade to portray himself as Shankly MkII. Ah that ego, a self-regard so deluded in nature that Jung would have fashioned a brand new couch for it. If Brendan Rodgers was made of chocolate he absolutely wouldn’t eat himself. Because then the world would be deprived of a chocolate Brendan Rodgers.
I’ll give a pass on his hilarious mid-life crisis; a manopause that’s only missing the leather kecks and sparkling gnashers to complete the full set of pathetic cliché. My mistake, just the trousers. The consistent hypocrisy however is entirely worthy of mention and condemnation.
Just three short months after taking charge at Anfield Rodgers reneged on a gentleman’s agreement with his former club Swansea and swooped for one of their stars Joe Allen. It was behaviour unbecoming of any manager but jolted from a man who preached about virtues for half of his working day. Later came his discourteous remarks on Southampton and Spurs, accusing one of a lack of ambition after he had just raided them for a quarter of their talent while taking a cheap potshot at the other for failing to reach the Champions League after spending £100m.
Both quotes of course came back to royally bite him on his posterior but even taken in isolation they are hardly the words that befit a manger of ‘Liverpool football club’. Where, pray tell, was all this class you espoused Brendan?
The short answer is that it was abandoned with near-success. Because, seemingly from nowhere, Liverpool got good. I mean, they got seriously good. With Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling the Reds blitzed their way through the 2013/14 season with a devastating spree of attacking adventure. The title was theirs for the taking and no sane soul could have begrudged them the unexpected glory.
It did however leave many conflicted. On the one hand Liverpool were irresistible and it was immensely refreshing to see a new contender vying for the throne. On the other, there stood Brendan, the smuggest, most pious man on the planet. Around this time he took to celebrating each goal with one arm raised aloft, lips pursed, striking a studied touchline pose that had no doubt been practised at length in front of his hallway mirror while his new girlfriend shouted out “Fiiit!! But try it with this jacket babe”.
The joke it seems was on us: David Brent had transformed Wernham Hogg.
In hindsight we all know the punchline but at the time it was unbearable. Here was an X-Factor contestant on the point of winning a Grammy. Here was Katie Hopkins nominated for a Pulitzer.
Few managers have experienced such a dramatic fall from grace as Brendan Rodgers but then again it’s rare for a boss to be so prematurely lauded to the heavens.
Liverpool’s second place finish in 2013/14 saw the Ulsterman rashly inducted into the pantheon of Anfield legend by fans starved of potential inductees. Post Suarez and post frighteningly good football those same fans have spent the past 16 months intent on retrospectively blackballing their decision. The fantastic people of this city have even taken to trolling the owner’s wife on Twitter and Crowdfunding in a desperate bid to see him gone.
Remember that desperately cloying meme of Shankly looking down from the clouds and giving his approval to his supposed prodigy? That seems an awfully long time ago now and indeed if such a Capraesque conversation were to take place one could easily imagine the great one’s first line to be “Where’s your silverware son? Then come back when you’ve got some”.
There’s no denying how scintillating Liverpool were in their 2013/14 campaign – swashbuckling and fearless – but a near-miss was all it ultimately amounted to and the damning verdict now is that Rodgers has spent a fortune reversing all that he once made brilliant into the predictable and ordinary. His managerial record meanwhile remains startlingly free of actual glory with just a play-off final with Swansea to his name.
This I am aware has been little more than a character assassination but perhaps that is apt towards an individual who values character over victory. I won’t deny the schadenfreude is sweet. I won’t deny that I’m sending karma a Christmas card this year. Because this was unimaginable just a short time ago and in a blink of an eye this conceited, puffed-up preener has gone from being a self-appointed heir to Shankly to the next John Gregory, the next David O’Leary. Men who believed the hype and flew too close to a sun they believed shone only for them. Then got well and truly found out.