Sunday 22 October 2017

Missing out on Spurs job close shave for Rodgers

Liverpool boss feeling vindicated by outcome of Bale and Suarez sagas

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers

Ian Herbert

LIVERPOOL manager Brendan Rodgers has described Tottenham Hotspur's attempt to hire him as manager last year as a "close shave."

And Rodgers also revealed, while dismissing the notion of considering another job offer from White Hart Lane, that the north London club's frequent sacking of managers put him off any idea of working for them.

The Northern Irishman accepted Liverpool's offer rather than that of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, though the English FA's decision to appoint Roy Hodgson, rather than Harry Redknapp, as England manager was the most crucial factor in Rodgers ending up at Anfield.

That delayed Redknapp's departure from Spurs until June 2012, by which time Liverpool's owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) had entered the picture, having also decided that Andre Villas-Boas should not advance beyond their own shortlist as they sought to replace Kenny Dalglish.

"One of the things I looked at was the history," Rodgers said of Spurs' approach. They'd had 11 managers in 18 years there so for someone like myself, I needed to create something, I needed to go to a club that was going to give us that opportunity."

The Liverpool manager, who declared himself "confident" that Luis Suarez would accept the new contract, which Liverpool have begun the process of seeking to tie him to this week, observed that Levy's willingness to sanction the sale of Gareth Bale in the summer had also deprived Spurs of an "X-factor."

The effect of the Welshman's departure illustrated why Liverpool and FSG had fought to keep Suarez, he added, four days after Liverpool's 5-0 win at White Hart Lane was the catalyst for Villas-Boas' sacking.

"Obviously there have been difficulties from Bale leaving," Rodgers said. "It shows you that when you have someone with that X-factor, sometimes eight, nine or 10 players can't replace that. That was why we fought like tigers to keep Luis Suarez here because he is a top player. He is a performer.

"There are many good players, but very few who perform week in, week out to that level.

"I am more than happy with the choice I made to come here and, hopefully, in time, it will prove to be the right one."

TRENCHANT

Rodgers has seized on the autonomy and time FSG provided to build a side who will go top of the Premier League tomorrow if they win at Anfield against Cardiff City -- another club in a state of civil war with the manager.

Rodgers launched a trenchant attack on the treatment of Cardiff manager Malky Mackay by that club's own impatient and interfering owner Vincent Tan, who seems intent on forcing the Scot out.

Mackay is adamant that he will not give Tan the satisfaction of getting his resignation, in favour of a new manager more malleable to the player-recruitment policy the Malaysian wants to dictate.

"I find it astonishing what he has had to go through and that is just looking at it from a distance," Rodgers said of Mackay, who was his assistant at Watford before leaving for Cardiff with Iain Moody, the Welsh club's head of recruitment who was controversially removed by Tan in October and to whom both managers have been close.

"Malky walked into a club that had given him 10 players," Rodgers said. "Ten players he had that summer (in 2011) and he had to build a new team.

"They brought in someone who totally transformed the mentality and the culture at the club. He took them to the Carling Cup final, to a play-off place and they just lost out. The following season he took them out of the Championship to ... become the second team from Wales to get into the Premier League.

"He has started this season with great results and he is going to go on and become a big manager at a top club.

"You have a business guy, who is operating the club and knows absolutely nothing about football. He has obviously been a very successful businessman in his life. But football is like no other business. People will try and compare and say some of the principles are the same (but they are not). I would fear for Cardiff (if Mackay moved on)."

The festive programme will also be a severe test for Liverpool, who have not been top at Christmas since 2008, with visits to Manchester City on St Stephen's Day and then Chelsea three days later.

Rodgers' side are yet to demonstrate emphatically that they can beat the elite and the division provides a constantly shifting picture.

Liverpool began last Sunday in fifth place. But the extraordinary rehabilitation of Suarez, named Football Supporters' Federation Player of the Year this week, has been a key component of their rising self-belief.

The Uruguayan's 17 goals in a mere 11 matches is the most any Liverpool player has scored before Christmas -- surpassing the record Robbie Fowler set in 1995-96 when he scored 16 in 19 games. Rodgers said he had "every confidence" Suarez, who will be 27 next month, would sign a new contract.

"I think he feels he's progressed here as a player. No matter how good you are and whether you're 26 or 32, like Steven Gerrard was when I came in here, if you want to become a better player and feel you are improving and see the club progressing then you are happy. And at this moment in time I don't think he can be any happier. I think he is at the happiest point he has been."

Suarez's Liverpool future is likely to be contingent on Champions League football, though it is a measure of how much more comfortable the club feel about him that Rodgers was able to welcome Arsene Wenger's observations this week that managers all "dream" of having players like Suarez -- someone who is "respectful, loves to train" and "an angel who transforms into a demon on the pitch."

Rodgers said that "sometimes you can actually acknowledge great players. As a coach you admire talent and if you can't talk about that talent in a positive way then that's a shame."

He would not have said that back in August. (© Independent News Service)

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