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.