By Mark Sproule
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George Best, Alex “Hurricane” Higgins, Barry McGuigan, Danny Blanchflower, Elisha Scott, Martin O’Neill, AP McCoy, Norman Whiteside, Joey Dunlop, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy. To name but a few legendary sportsmen that hail from the small province of Northern Ireland (population 1.6M). All are sportsmen who have gone on to achieve notable success in their respective fields. The question on every Liverpool fans lips tonight is, will Brendan Rodgers name sit comfortably alongside that list in the next few years, having been appointed today to one of the greatest positions in world football.
As a fellow Northern Irishman and ardent Liverpool fan I must admit I was filled with a great sense of pride today watching Brendan Rodgers sit alongside Liverpool Managing Director Ian Ayre at a press conference which saw him officially unveiled to the world as the new manager of Liverpool Football Club. Appropriate perhaps that the meaning of the name “Brendan” translates to “Prince”, given that the County Antrim man succeeds the much adored “King” Kenny Dalglish, after what some might say was a premature sacking of the legendary Scot by the Merseyside club a fortnight ago. Credit to the new man in the tribute he paid to outgoing Dalglish in his post conference interview. “I suppose I first of all want to mention Kenny Dalglish, who is an incredible man. He’s obviously the best player in the history of this football club and he’s someone who adored Liverpool. He has nursed the club through some horrific times and also brought a lot of joy to the supporters here both as a player and a manager. He is someone I want to pay a great respect to because he’s a wonderful ambassador for this football club.”
If there was any doubt in the minds of the thousands of Liverpool fans calling for the return of another former manager in Rafael Benitez, or for a big name such as Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho, today should have called off the wolves for a while at least. I would think the way the former Swansea man conducted himself in his preliminary press duties today should certainly go some way to assure the Liverpool faithful that he is not another Roy Hodgson. Similar murmurings which preceded his appointment were of “a small fish in a big pond”, “a job too far for him”, “not a big enough name for Liverpool”. Only time will tell if these things are far from the truth in the case of Rodgers. What I will say is that every Mourinho, Benitez, Ferguson or indeed the great Bill Shankly himself had to ply their trade somewhere, only then did success make them a household name. I for one will give him the respect and support he needs in order to succeed in what is already a difficult task. A task which it appears Rodgers will revel in, having spoken of the “frustration” of LFC fans being one of the main things which attracted him to the club.
By all accounts the normally “trigger happy” US based Fenway Sports Group are going to give the Northern Irishman time to get the club back to where they belong. Let’s hope for the sake of the football club that they are true to their word. Longevity of managers at United and Arsenal has guaranteed them Champions League football year in and out, this should be remembered by the American owners as they seek a return for their investment. It is clear from what Rodgers had to say today that he has a clear technical football philosophy. This was evidenced last year with his newly promoted Swansea team being lauded in their first season in the premier league for the way they played the game, and the miracle Rodgers achieved in finishing 11th on a mere budget of £7 million. Liverpool already has a strong group of players who underachieved in the Premier League in 2012. Rodgers will embark on putting his own stamp on this group of players along with some new additions to the squad. I get the feeling exciting times lie ahead again at Liverpool Football Club and that this will not be another false dawn. Perhaps the luck of Irish might see some of the 308 missed chances in 2011-2012 (highest in Premier League) turn to goals under the new man and Liverpool return to competing with the Elite clubs of Europe before too long. For now I would urge all of our supporters to get behind the team and new manager, and sit back and enjoy an excellent brand of attacking football. There will no doubt be some more frustrations and disappointments along the way, but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day.