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Saturday, March 29, 2014

From big mac to big cheese! How Brendan Rodgers swapped scrapheap for top table

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BRENDAN RODGERS does not just reel off the rough date football turned its back on him. He can recall the precise day of the week - even the exact minute.

LiverpoolBrendan Rodgers remembers the time and date that he was sacked by Reading[GETTY]
Over the six months that followed the man now lauded throughout England for leading Liverpool's title challenge into the final throes of the season, staring down both Chelsea and Manchester City, would go on to hit rock bottom.
Rejection was followed by bereavement, and frustration, before a shot at redemption arrived while he was sitting with his kids in McDonald's.
As Liverpool tear up the Premier League such a scenario seems like a lifetime ago. And yet it is a little more than four years since Rodgers found himself as an out-of-work manager struggling to be taken seriously after Reading dispensed with his services.
"I got the sack on December 16. It was 5pm on a Wednesday," he said. "My objective then, because it was the first time in my life I was out of work and out of football, was to make sure it did not spoil Christmas for my family.
"I started writing to a few clubs to see if I could get a job, or even an interview for a job. I didn't get anything.
"There were three clubs - I won't name them out of respect to them. I received a reply from two. Two were in the Championship and one in League One. I didn't get an interview and felt my managerial career was over before it had started."
It had been another letter Rodgers penned that kickstarted his climb back to the coalface.
This time it was written to himself, drafted on a sun lounger after Christmas was out of the way, chronicling everything he would do differently from his tenure at the Madjeski Stadium, where he won six of 23 matches, if he ever returned to the dugout.
"I went to Dubai to reflect for 10 days and started to write in the sunshine about my experience," said Rodgers. "How it could have been different. What I could improve. What I should take into my next job. What areas would I be better in when I was next a manager?"
The letter stretched to 11 pages, and the words he wrote provide the context of what he has gone on to achieve.
There was a note to be more clinical in his approach, not wait for solutions to fall into place but confront the need to make big decisions. Consider the treatment of Andy Carroll, loaned out before he kicked a ball for Rodgers at Liverpool, and it can be traced back to that point.
Liverpool signed Philippe Coutinho from Inter Milan for £8.5m [GETTY]


Rodgers is able to laugh now at the day soon after his return from Dubai that he pitched up at the City Ground to watch his son Anton play in an FA Youth Cup game for Chelsea against Nottingham Forest. He had been left a ticket but no car-park pass, and he tried to wing it.
A steward waved him away, pointing him instead in the direction of a public car park a mile away. On the walk back realisation dawned on Rodgers that he was on the outside of the game he loved.
He was to be blown further off course with the death of his mother, Christina, from a heart attack at the age of 53, leaving her son mentally fatigued.
"I got back from Dubai and was ready to go and my mother died on February 3," he said. "So I was there, out of work, and now had the two biggest voids in my life; the loss of my mother and football.
"I was recovering mentally and decided to go to the gym, get myself fit and then start writing to a few clubs."
There is a pause before he continues. "Then I got a call from Manchester City and I thought I'd probably have to go in the coaching game again for a couple of years to get my name back.
"How it all worked out was I was sitting in McDonald's one day with my two children. I got a call saying Swansea were keen to speak to me. On the Friday of that week I became the manager of Swansea. That was the six months."
Philippe CoutinhoRodgers was grateful to Steve McLaren for inviting him to be involved with FC Twente’s title charge [GETTY]
In many ways, it was the making of him. He spent four days gaining unprecedented access to FC Twente's title charge under Steve McClaren and, remembering his treatment there, Rodgers now makes a point of contacting sacked managers and inviting them to Melwood.
"People say, 'What's your success?' The word for me is 'failure'. That's how you succeed," said Rodgers. "Whatever way you dress it up, something hasn't worked.
"For the first time in my life I felt I had failed at Reading. I probably read the script wrong thinking I had three years and instead I had 20 games.
"Either I disappear and become an academy director, where I'd been for 14 years, or I show character and perseverance and go again. Thankfully I was able to do that.
"I certainly have not had it presented to me. I found out the hard way. I respect former players and top players who get the opportunity - and rightly so - but I never had that protection. I had to go down a different trail. That fear of failure is what drives me on."
At Anfield tomorrow, the arrival of Tottenham will serve as a reminder of how everything has come full circle. It was the 5-0 drubbing of Spurs in December that Rodgers regards as his watershed moment at Liverpool. There have been 11 wins and two defeats in the 15 league games since.
"The Tottenham game was the moment where the players thought we had performed in a big game how we perform every day in training, and we had done it at a ground where we had struggled for a number of years," he added. "In that moment it went from having relief to having belief that we can win every game we play."

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Quote of the moment

Defying belief however, is a market Benitez has cornered quite well. The moment you think Benitez is clueless, he defies it by pulling off a result of majesty, like the one achieved in Madrid. The moment he is hailed a genius, he masterminds toothless surrender to a team going nowhere. In the ongoing Anfield power struggle, just when he was cornered by the firing squad, the Spaniard's demise at Liverpool looking practically assured with the ominous suspension of betting by the bookmakers, he squeezes out through a narrow trapdoor and eliminates Rick Parry. Rafa Benitez is Keyzer Soze.
- Just Football blog: The Curious Beast that is Football 28 Feb 2009