The Secret to Future Success at Liverpool Football Club: Patience

As the year 2012 came to an end, the similarities between Liverpool’s current campaign and that of Roy Hodgson’s in 2010 are undeniable on paper. Sitting mid table – and a staggering 21 points behind bitter rivals Manchester United – Liverpool have earned a mere 31 points under Brendan Rodgers and are only 9 points ahead of the hugely disappointing Hodgson reign that mercifully ended just after the new year.

I attended my first ever Liverpool match four days before 2011 began to painfully witness firsthand one of the lowest points of Liverpool Football Club in recent memory: a 1-0 defeat at Anfield to the lowly Wolverhampton Wanderers that saw Liverpool end the calendar year with an unfathomable 22 points in the league.

Following the loss, there was an undeniable sense of anger and frustration around the grounds, not just from the humiliating defeat, but the way the twenty League matches played in 2010 seemed to be perfectly – and depressingly – summed up by one stunning home defeat. The Liverpool fans I spoke with following the loss were shocked: utter disappointment was coupled with fuming rants of how Hodgson had destroyed the once almighty Reds, and simply had to go.

In the end, as we know, those fans got their wish, and Hodgson was sacked shortly after the New Year resumed.

However, after an ultimately fruitless gap year under former Liverpool manager and player Kenny Dalglish (despite winning the less-than-impressive Carling Cup), Liverpool’s American owners felt compelled to bring in a new manager; a “visionary leader” to restore Liverpool to its dominance and relevance in English and European football. But two years after the dismissal of the reviled Hodgson, Liverpool find themselves an uninspiring nine points better off under Rodgers than Hodgson at the start of the new calendar year.

So to the ultimate question on the minds of every Liverpool supporter in the world: is Brendan Rodgers the right man for the difficult task of making Liverpool FC a dominant football club again? The answer, as agonizing as it is, seems to lie with the current league leaders: Manchester United.

The similarities between the early Alex Ferguson and Brendan Rodgers are intriguing. Both managers enjoyed brief successes at so-called lesser clubs before joining their respective EPL sides. Ferguson had led Aberdeen to three league cups and four Scottish cups, and gained substantial respect for uprooting the duopoly of Celtic and Rangers that had existed in Scotland for the previous fifteen seasons. Rodgers on the other hand, led Swansea City to a third place finish and became the first Welsh side ever to gain promotion into the English Premier League. And despite projections of immediate relegation from analysts, the newly promoted Swans finished eleventh in 2012 and currently sit in ninth place in the EPL.

So too are the similarities between the states of the EPL clubs when each took over. In 1986 when Ferguson first signed for United, the club was flirting with the relegation zone. In his first half-season in charge, Ferguson managed to guide the club positively into eleventh place for the 1986-87 season. But despite finishing second to Liverpool in the following season, United fell again to an underwhelming eleventh place finish in 1988-89. These inconsistencies depicted in Ferguson’s early years as manager are quite similar to the volatility and unpredictability demonstrated by Liverpool’s results under Rodgers.

But on the verge of managerial termination, the Manchester owners granted Alex Ferguson something incredibly rare in today’s result-driven football climate: time. Despite the inconsistent results, United’s board ultimately decided that more time and patience were needed for Ferguson to implement his system and tactics. The next year, United went on to win the FA Cup, and in 1993 won the League for the first time in 26 years. And this League triumph – known all too well by Liverpool supporters – has been ensued by eleven others under Sir Alex.

With 2013 upon us, Liverpool’s American owners have publicly expressed that Brendan Rodgers, similarly, will need – above all – time. He will need time to implement his tactics, his visions, and his values of hard work, commitment, and honesty into the club. But a plea for time and patience at a club as colossal as Liverpool is not an easy pitch to sell. Liverpool’s supporters are proud of the successful history and tradition they have maintained and cultivated for over a century, and the idea of rebuilding a club from the ground up is a notion that Liverpool supporters have simply not been forced to entertain. But if we consider Manchester United in the late ‘80’s – hiring a young, enthusiastic, hard-working manager in Alex Ferguson – much like Liverpool’s current young and promising manager, it seems that faith in Rodgers could yield years of success down the road for Liverpool, if the club and its supporters have the patience to allow it.

9 thoughts on “The Secret to Future Success at Liverpool Football Club: Patience”

  1. I’d argue in this age of a globalisation, all pervasive media and technology that the patience Rogers will be afforded will be far shorter than that Ferguson was given.

  2. Hopefully he’ll get more time than Daglish. Kenny rejuvenated the team, put some pride back into it, but seemed a bit stuck on a “play mostly Englishmen” riff.

    Sure, under his leadership they took the glorious Carling Cup which follows potential Europa League glory, but in these days, it is what have you done for me lately. And lately was when Liverpool set up camp in the first half of the FA Cup final.

    Rodgers seems more long term minded and seeking the best from his staff, giving most players a shot. The youth on the team is pretty remarkable, but they are stuck with two expensive prospects in Downing and Henderson, who may end up being good, but have a massive transfer fee hanging over their heads.

    Liverpool can become very good again soon, but the home talent has to develop with the squad. What Liverpool need is a direction, and changing the head coach every year or so doesn’t give you that, despite what some Russian billionaire may think.

  3. Alex Ferguson had won 2 titles in Scotland before joining Man U. Rodgers doesn’t have the same CV. The rules of engagement were a lot different when Ferguson began his career at Man U when clubs didn’t go into excessive short term debt for long term gain. That’s not the case today.

    Liverpool’s policy of buying young potential won’t work to win them the title because clubs like Chelsea and the Manchester clubs have the resources to continue to spend whatever it takes to remain at the top. While Liverpool buy players like Sturridge, the other top clubs will continue to buy players like Oscar, Mata, etc. who cost more but are better players who will keep those clubs ahead of the Liverpools and Evertons of the EPL. This is how things are now. Absent a salary cap not much will change.

    The best that clubs like Liverpool can hope for is to get into the top 4 once in a while because to stay there long term requires matching the spending power of the bigger clubs. The Moneyball approach might work in American sports but will not work in soccer where you have to compete for talent globally, not just locally.

  4. Aberdeen unseating the Rangers and Celtic monopoly in those days is like Swansea winning the Premier League title today. Fergie came to Utd with a pedigree. Rodgers has none other than getting a team promoted to the premier league which happens to other managers every year. Rodgers is definitely no Ferguson in waiting.

    I’ve said it before – without Suarez Liverpool would be hovering over the relegation zone. God help them if he gets a long term injury. Sturridge can’t fill his boots.

    1. Any manager that can break the monopoly of the top 4 at present by winning the title with an unfashionable team would be Brian Clough’s love child.

  5. The best talent will be bought by teams with money to spend. Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG, Man United, Man City, Chelsea and others will continue to buy the best talent out there by outspending other teams. Unfortunately unless teams are prepared to spend money for talent they are not going to remain at the top for long. Liverpool’s owners did spend money, although they did sell too, but on average British talent. Now they’re trying to cut their wage bill while the top teams are prepared to pay 100K and 200K for top talent. Liverpool cannot compete with that. The players Liverpool are now buying or are interested in are not in the same class as players likely to move to the top teams. I cannot see Liverpool’s strategy succeeding in today’s environment. Gone are the days of building over time.

  6. The difference between Hodgson and Rodgers is that it is hard to believe any of the players ready to get stuck in after a team talk from Roy, while at least there’s the possibility that they will under Brenden. Rodgers has a plan, and that philosophy will be debated throughout his tenure. I don’t like how he’s stuck on players he’s worked with before, as I don’t rate Allen whatsoever. Sturridge will help strictly because of his position. I think unlike The King, Rodgers survives no matter what. And while I love Dalglish, he made some poor decisions regarding transfers. Henderson may prove to be a decent player but never worth the fee, ditto Andy Carroll. Needless to say, I hope for the best.

  7. Liverpool are a ‘were” club. They were once great. They were Champions and were the best in Europe.

    Not anymore nor likely to be. Those glory days are long gone and they will always be remembered for the club that were once great.

  8. He’ll be given time, and I think it will pay-off.

    As a Liverpool supporter yourself, Luke, you know that all we really want is good football from our side. Results may not always go our way, but it’s most important that we play fluid, attaching football – the way Liverpool has always played. The supporters will be patient, as we’ve seen great progress towards this.

    I think he’ll be able to get Liverpool back to what we, realistically, expect: a top four finish more often than not (the a fifth or sixth finish on a bad year or two to be expected) and a run for the title once in the next five years or so.

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