Brendan for Barcelona?

Published: Monday, 21 December 2020

It’s a measure of how far Brendan Rodgers has taken Leicester that we now expect to see them in the top six. And I don’t think anyone is surprised to look at a table and find them in the top four. I think he’s done a fantastic job.

I wasn’t sure he’d picked the right one when he left Celtic. And I was convinced he made a mistake when he turned Arsenal down before Arteta took the job. But, not for the first time, Rodgers has proved me wrong.

Brendan’s calm demeanour and penchant for being a tad verbose have made him one of the impressionists favourites. Darren Farley does a spooky life like take-off. If you shut your eyes and listen you’ll struggle to separate the real thing from the imitation. Farley should be ‘very proood’ of his work. There have been times that Rodgers has struggled to get us to take him seriously and Farley is one reason why. But now we have to.

Rodgers has never been short of self belief. He’s often taken himself a little too seriously. The documentary he starred in at Liverpool didn’t help. There was that terrible moment when he showed us his portrait. And we’d all previously seen the three envelope trick.  But do you know what - looking back I don’t blame him one bit. He was excited. He was ‘proood’ to have landed the job and he had every reason to be.

This was a guy that had no playing career to speak of - that had worked damned hard to make an impression at Chelsea before landing managerial jobs at Watford, Reading and Swansea. Then he got the big one, making a journey that John Toshack had dreamt of many years before. He got Liverpool - taking over from Kenny Dalglish.

That was never going to be easy. Rodgers made subtle changes - like turning the goal nets back from white to red - which Liverpool had always had. He wanted to show he understood the club. He bought into the traditions of the place - brushing off criticism from the likes of me! I had a real go once when he left Steven Gerrard out of a CL game at Madrid. Of course he had a problem with Steven. Gerrard was a huge character and would always over-shadow the manager.

But for Steven’s slip against Chelsea - who knows? Well - that slip and an eagerness on Rodgers’ part to get the better of his mentor Mourinho that night. If he’d settled for a point Liverpool would’ve gone on to win the title. They would’ve won at Palace - instead of conceding three as a result of chasing goals. Newcastle at home, on the last day of the season, was a banker. Gerrard later admitted that Liverpool were ‘over confident’ against Chelsea and it bit them.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter now. Rodgers chose his next job carefully and well. He morphed from the ‘nearly man’ into a serial winner at Celtic. Never mind that Rangers weren’t a threat - he had them playing some really good football and he swept up. He won everything, not once, but twice and very nearly three times. Perhaps he looks back on the timing of his departure with regret, but he didn’t really have a choice. Benitez was trying like a bear to get the Leicester job so Rodgers had to take it when it was offered.

Again, a lot of us thought he’d made a mistake. That dressing room was an unforgiving place, with the odd viper hiding in the corners. It had seen off as nearly as many managers as Watford have been through. Rodgers quietly set about winning players round. Not only has he done it, but Leicester are title contenders again. None of us thought that could happen after what we all called their ‘one-off fairy tale’ in 2016.

I’m really pleased for Rodgers, but I would add this. If Arsenal comes up again Brendan - take it. You can’t turn a club like that down twice. Rodgers has proved he can handle big clubs - as well as both difficult and big players.

I remember saying that when he tossed off the CL game in Madrid that the Spanish giants would never forget an insult like that. Again - I was wrong. Not only have we all forgotten, but I believe that Rodgers should - and would be - at the head of a short line of British managers that could handle a job like that - and the one at Barcelona. He’s become something that we in the British game should be ‘proood’ of.

Once again I started writing today determined not to mention the most bang ordinary set of officials any country in the world has the mis-fortune to trust their game to, but I want to leave you with a few questions.

Why did Craig Pawson need VAR to convince him Aurier had fouled Fafana? It couldn’t have been clearer.

Why wasn’t Callum Wilson booked for diving? Why was Andersen sent off? Why weren’t we allowed to listen to Graham Scott’s conversation with Stockley Park? What on earth were they discussing? It was a perfect example of why we should be allowed to listen in.

Why was Livermore sent off - but Hause wasn’t? That one was a leg breaker.

Why was James booked for diving when clearly that was a pen?

Why wasn’t Sterling penalised for a blatant handball in the box at Southampton?

And why on earth are we disallowing goals on the length of under arm hair? That was James Maddison’s question after his terrific effort was ruled out at Spurs. And then Watkins suffered the same fate at The Hawthorns? It’s ridiculous. I’ll say it again - our game has been stolen by a dozen men in suits that believe they know better than the millions that watch and love football. And Mike Riley has reduced our elite referees to bumbling, fearful wrecks - that make up excuses as they go along to cover for their own ineptitude - and that of their colleagues.