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8 September 2014

By Tza Drake - Follow @Mr_Tza

There was once a time when a football team (no matter what team) found out they had been drawn to face Liverpool FC and collectively they experience a sensation akin to the sense that had been caught cheating on someone they loved. Rather like making an egregious mistake at work and having your boss ask you into their office to ‘talk’.

A wave of cold panic sweeps over you, and you are presented with a devastating reality of about to have something taken away from you. Pride, companionship, income, FACE! You were going to have a part of your ego and your soul chiselled away.

As you stood in the Anfield tunnel about to walk down the narrow stairs hearing the haunting words of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ echoing around the cauldron you were to enter your body would become jelly. You’d look up and see the Liverpool crest; the words ‘This is Anfield’ printed beneath and the notion that your nightmare was about to begin was complete.

No matter what you did, how much you tried, you were not waking from this. The ground was going to open up and swallow you but not so you could escape the ordeal; quite the opposite. You were about to be found out in front of 40 plus thousand people.

You were about to face Liverpool FC, and you were in for one of the hardest days at the office you would ever know.

Sadly, this feeling for teams has until late dissipated. The Shankly terror only remembered by the fans and some well-informed football pundits. The Dalglish magic a distant memory muddied by his attempt to revive LFC being (let’s be honest) a failure. Remembered more for the deadline morass of bringing Andy Carrol in for 38 million pounds. For signing Downing for another 20 ostensibly squandering what could have been a great profit from the selling of Torres (bought from Atletico for approx. 25 mil sold to Chelsea for approx. 50 mil.)

Kenny though did win ‘The League Cup’ and bring Jordan Henderson to LFC who is beginning to fulfil his potential as a world class mid-fielder, and he also gave Raheem Sterling his first start. After the departure of Benitez and the appointment of Hodgsen LFC were a club in disorder. A back room soap opera was developing (during the end of Benitez’s reign) between the owners Hicks and Gilllet. Both believed it was okay to use our mighty club as a battle ground for their relationship and its disintegration. Parents using their child as each-others bargaining chip. They neglected us, disrespected us, and came close to destroying us.

This began to manifest on the field and it was apparent something had to be done. In 2010 the pair sold LFC to John Henry owner of the ’Boston Red Socks’ and so began another chapter for LFC but due to chapter we’d just read, we feared for our hero.

Every leap forward needs a step back. This is what Hodgsen and Kenny’s second term as coach represented, a step back. Back to proven old dogs who had done it. Dalglish 85/86, 88/89, 89/90 94/95 {with Blackburn} FA Cup – 86, 89. Hodgsen – Danish titles, UEFA runner up with Inter, Europa runner-up with Fulham not to mention his prior achievements throughout Europe.

These were stalwarts of the game. Firm hands, dependable, proven. Unfortunately they were limited, often lacking vision or worse perceived great potential where only mediocrity existed.

Our great club looked like it was going to be constantly mid table, and to all of dismay, it appeared the club was almost willing to accept this.

Thankfully this was not true. John Henry was not a man the owned clubs that simply did ok. He is a man that wants his clubs to win, win it all, and do it with frequency. (Look at the Red Socks but when doing so keep in mind the number of teams in MLB and their histories).

LFC knew we needed change, a new brand of football. A style that was attractive to the supporters; made us gasp in awe and yielded results. The search for a new manager was on and the names began to fly. Roberto Martinez, Louis VanGaal, and of course Brenden Rodgers.

Rodgers having worked under Morinho at Chelsea (and having been with Reading, Watford) took Swansea to the premier league and in their first season finished 11th impressing many in doing so. His style of play was mellifluous and his philosophy of ‘always keep the ball’ though at times makes your heat beat a little fasted works. Rodgers won me over right away with little things.

Restoring the ‘This is Anfield’ sign from the days where the club was at its most glorious. Bring back the red goal nets because of the same reason, stating 'these objects were here when we were a great club, LFC never stopped being a great club but somehow we’ve neglected this.'

He brings the best out of his players and how he does this for me can only be assumption, I have never met the man nor been trained by him. I have seen how he interacts with his players and from that I gleaned he is both a team and man manager.

Rodgers reminds me of an old head chef that would tell me how he felt with a look. Some looks he gave me made me put my head down and bust my arse all day, not talking except to say yes chef, or as fast as I can chef, never, ever. No chef. This particular chef would at the end of the day tell me what he thought of my performance if it was a good one. He heaped praise on me that made me want to work as hard as I could for him and subsequently caused the reaction I’d had when I’d let him down.

I see this in Roger’s men.

Daniel Sturridge missed a penalty against Everton, blazing his shot high into the crowd. In the grand scheme it did not matter, LFC had the game in the bag and Gerrard felt he’d give Danny the chance to score a hat-trick against Everton. He was sub’ed a few minutes later and he walked off shoulders slumped, head down and glaring at Roger’s. Roger’s in turn held his stare and Danny quickly took his seat and dropped his head. He’d realized. He was in trouble, he’d made a mistake.

It wasn’t that he missed a penalty he’d already scored two goals. It was his attitude in walking off as he did. For sulking at his manager who had brought him off because his day at the office was done. He’d done what he needed for the team, more in fact. He had earned the right to come off and in turn set up a chance for another to play against Everton. Later in an interview Danny apologised to the fans, and his coach for the attitude he’d shown.

I could see the culture of the club and Rodgers affect at the moment.

 Last season we were treated to a dazzling display of passing football. Seldom the ‘dump it on over and hope someone runs on’. Liverpool’s remit of finishing in top four surpasses with us challenging for the title, taking it to the last day. Rodger’s brand of football was clear to see and it was clear it works.

His management of his players apparent and the respect they have for him resulting in them striving to play their best football. This is how a manager gets the best out of a player, the player wants to give his best for his manager.

Look at Mario against Spurs. Winning headers at left back. Chasing down the ball to the goal keeper. These are actions of a man who wants to show his coach and his team mates he’s committed. Its early days for Mario so I will leave it at that, but I feel he will buy into Roger’s way or he will be a expensive bench warmer it’s a simple as that.

Brendan Rodgers has proven he has what it takes, he has proven he has a team that can go all the way (yes Suarez was a massive loss, but he was but one man. Actually Suarez was more than a man he was a football god). I am confident in Brendan Rodgers we have a manager that will bring us a title. Maybe not this year, but he will bring us one probably two or three. He has built a squat that need time but give them that we will have a squad of devastating talent. 

Look to the distance and smile fellow LFC fans. I see amazing goals, I see titles and cups, I see occasional heart break, but most importantly. I see more moments I will love and treasure, than moments that will cause me pain and frustration.  

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