| 15°C Dublin

Rodgers' vision coming into focus


Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers. Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers. Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Bob Paisley

Bob Paisley


Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers. Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

YOU could be forgiven for thinking Liverpool have arranged a series of Seventies theme parties in preparation for the Premier League climax.

If the sight of scarves and banners and revival of Kop chants from 40 years ago was not enough on Wednesday, sitting in the directors' box was former chief executive Peter Robinson, one of the architects of Liverpool's glory years.

Robinson, a rare visitor to Anfield, will surely approve of Rodgers' modern twist on a formula not easily replicated since the famed administrator's retirement in the late Nineties.

"Anyone who watched Liverpool in the Seventies and Eighties knows what it can be like here," Rodgers said this week. He has been channeling that spirit since his first day in office.

There have been times during the past 24 years when Liverpool's sense of nostalgia was their prime asset and also their major defect, a source of inspiration to some and permanent migraine to others. Gerard Houllier, who upon leaving Liverpool in 2004 made a polite, but nonetheless pointed parting observation. "There are some here who want to go back to the Seventies and Eighties," he said. "Fine, not with me."

In fairness to Houllier, he had a point. His irritation at one cursory remark too many from the legends lounge only proves the Liverpool into which Houllier arrived in 1998 is vastly different to the one Rodgers is rebuilding.

There were enough warnings for Rodgers to heed about the perils of being perceived as the smart, modern coach with a 'philosophy' who had come to Liverpool – as one former player sarcastically put it in 2012 – "to reinvent the wheel".


Instead of running from the club museum, Rodgers decided to make history his ally rather than foe. In his first week in charge he was given a tour of the club's artefacts by curator Stephen Done and spotted the iconic 'This is Anfield' sign that Bill Shankly placed in the players' tunnel.

"Why is it in here and not where it used to be?" Rodgers asked. Done informed him there was a new one there now. Rodgers insisted the original be put back. Next, he noticed on old photographs and videos how Liverpool's goal nets used to be red. He ordered their reintroduction.

A significant early meeting was with Liverpool's Former Players' Association. Many have influential media roles and he wanted them to hear his vision and get them on board. He did likewise with fan groups, websites and fanzines.

Perhaps his most surprising act was to sanction the return of his predecessor, Kenny Dalglish, welcoming him back as an ambassador a year after he had taken his job, many fans at the time still arguing 'the king' should not have been dethroned. There are no ghosts on the wall at Anfield under Rodgers, just kindred spirits. To his closest associates, the Liverpool revival is no surprise.

His first act as manager in July 2012 was to call a meeting of the entire Melwood staff, including groundsmen, media team, dining ladies, receptionists and everyone with a daily, working connection to the training ground.

He presented his vision to around 40 employees, speaking about embracing and respecting the traditions of old but offering a modern sheen. "I want you all on the boat with me," he told them, pinpointing his first 100 days in charge as essential for setting his agenda.

His approach was likened by those who heard it to an inaugural speech by a prime minister or US president on taking office, the incumbent determined to hit the ground running in putting an infrastructure in place even if, initially, results were poor.

Rodgers is now executing his plan to replenish the Anfield ideal. He has not yet been intimidated by the sight of the Champions League trophy in the foyer of Melwood, or subject to the bouts of paranoia and insecurity that damaged some predecessors.

"When you come to a club like this one the shirt weighs much heavier than any other shirt. The weight of expectation is phenomenal," Rodgers said on his unveiling as manager.

His players are carrying it well. If they maintain their winning streak, the Seventies theme will continue when the flares are ignited in celebration all around Anfield.