Eoin O’Neill looks at the complex situation at Liverpool where manager Brendan Rodgers is coming under increasing pressure with every negative result and how modern football clubs are displaying an ever-increasing need for instant success.
Christmas 1981 and the English Football League 1st Division took on an unfamiliar look. The reigning European Champions, Liverpool, were languishing in 12th position. On St. Stephen’s Day that year, Liverpool succumbed to a 3-1 home defeat to Manchester City …. Pre Dubai take-over, City.
It consigned them to their fifth league defeat of an already wretched season. To put this in perspective, this was their 3rd home league defeat of that campaign. Throughout the decade that was the 1970s, they had lost only five league matches at Anfield.
Seasoned Anfield regulars were predicting the end of the trophy-laden days. Before suggesting this is an attempt by this writer to reach into his sentimental bank vault of Liverpool memories, trust me, this is going somewhere.
Five players were brought into the club that summer to add extra impetus to an ageing squad. These five players formed an axis of the Liverpool squad for the next 6-7 years. The five players were, Mark Lawrenson, Bruce Grobbelaar, Ian Rush, Craig Johnston and Home Farm’s, Ronnie Whelan.
Following that 3-1 reverse to Manchester City, manager Bob Paisley took the decision to take the captaincy from a man, who seven months earlier had lifted the European Cup. Phil Thompson was a die in the wool Liverpudlian. The decision to give the captaincy to Graeme Souness was questioned by many, however the decision was to prove a masterstroke.
Five months later and Souness hoisted the League title for a 13th time, following a 3-1 home victory over Spurs. Rewind those five months and let’s focus on the decision making undertaken by the manager at the time. Bob Paisley was no man’s fool. He had become the first manager in history to win the European Cup three times.
Countless other trophies had come his way since he took over in the mid 70s. Never once during this decision making process did any journalist or football fan clamber for Paisley to be relieved of his duties. His backroom team of Ronnie Moran, Joe Fagan and Roy Evans had the trust of the Liverpool fans and public alike. Between them, they would manage the club for a combined 16 years. They were in essence “allowed to get on with it.”
Let’s fast forward 32 years. The current Liverpool incumbent Brendan Rodgers and his backroom team of Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh are in a similar position to what Paisley’s 1981 vintage were. Languishing mid-table with a raft of summer signings trying to integrate themselves into a squad.
A local lad yet again captains the side. For 1981 and Phil Thompson, read 2014 and Steven Gerrard. Both men European Cup-winning captains and both England captains at one stage or another.
The vital difference here, apart from the obvious quality of the squads, is the media’s reaction to both managers. Whilst nobody questioned Paisley, the knives are sharpening for Rodgers and his backroom team. Every sinew of his being is being analyzed and over analyzed.
The current media and the modern fan’s fixation with ‘instant success’ is what makes us question the decision making of these men who prowl the touchline.
One week it’s Wenger, the next Van Gaal. Brendan Rodgers – the spotlight is yours. Should he choose to fall through the trap door, another incumbent will saunter through the Anfield front door, discuss the clubs heritage, promise to deliver, hint at ‘significant funds’ being made available and the merry-go-round will begin all over again. This is the world according to professional sport. One man’s folly is another man’s gain.
Brendan Rodgers’ team conceded 49 league goals last season. A staggering amount of goals, to concede, for a team that finished in 2nd place. A summer that promised so much yielded Mario Balotelli, Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana for a combined £81m. Brendan, Brendan, Brendan, why?
On the flip side, Liverpool’s net sales this summer only yielded a £40m deficit. Perhaps these players are the extent of Liverpool’s bargaining power? Considering PSG paid £50m for David Luiz and some semblance of the current transfer market is beginning to take shape.
Liverpool will not qualify for next season’s Champions League and last season’s tidal wave of emotion is consigned to memories. For the owners of this club, a sense of realisation has enveloped their Boston office.
A net sales deficit of 40m is paltry in comparison to what some of Europe’s major clubs have spent this, and other summers. This is the reality in which Liverpool must live.
Manchester United’s £150m outlay (with more to follow in January) is an exception to which only two or three clubs can match or surpass. The influx of wealthy owners from the Dubai and Russian states increases the need for instant success, but at what price? Liverpool spent within their means this summer, as they should.
Spending money and spending money wisely however, are two different things. A young manager was recently expulsed to St. Petersburg for committing a similar crime. Brendan Rodgers, take note.
Eoin O’Neill, Pundit Arena
Featured image By Geoffrey Hammersley (Brendan Rodgers) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons