Respect and loyalty are difficult themes in football at the best of times but if you had to pick a man to fight their corner then it should never be Brendan Rodgers.
By George Ogier
The summer months bring many things to the lives of people in Britain. A two-week love of tennis, a complete inability to use sun cream and the sight of grown men who feel it’s acceptable to wander around Tesco with no shirt on. A rise in temperature also brings another steadfast tradition, that of the drawn out football transfer.
In years gone by there has generally been one deal that drives people to complete distraction. However, this year we have hit the saga jackpot and there are three or four deals – or lack of – that are dominating the sports pages. The situation threatening to go nuclear this summer involves Liverpool and Luis Suarez.
Suarez wants to leave Liverpool and unsurprisingly Liverpool aren’t keen to let him go. Players that talented are hard to replace and Suarez recently signed a contract extension which puts the club in a slightly stronger bargaining position.
The general consensus appears to be that Luis Suarez is a ne’er-do-well who is holding a fine institution to ransom. The Uruguayan is an easy chap to take against with his mean reputation and history of race relations and general bitey-ness.
Chief football writers across the land are proclaiming that Liverpool are in the right and that Brendan Rodgers is simply trying to uphold the few values the game still has left. Henry Winter has called Suarez a “toxic cheat” and the Mirror’s David Maddock says that Suarez is a “spoilt man-child” who is “disrespecting Liverpool”.
Personally, I dislike Luis Suarez as much as the next person – as long as the next person isn’t a Liverpool supporter – but I am reaching a point where I’m beginning to side with the South American. It’s not a stance I’m particularly comfortable with but the alternative is almost too much to bear. The reason for this? Brendan Rodgers.
It is hard to find many redeeming qualities in Luis Suarez and it is almost as hard to take Brendan Rodgers seriously. From his role in Channel 5’s comedy caper Being: Liverpool to the relentless management gabble and incessant bum touching of Jonjo Shelvey, Rodgers is a difficult man to warm to.
As daft as those things were, Rodgers’ conduct over this Luis Suarez issue has sent the Antrim man into a whole different league of nonsense. We are treated to daily diatribes on the subject of loyalty and respect from the Liverpool boss. Another manager spinning these lines would make the story slightly more palatable but a quick look at Rodgers’ past shows a lack of self-awareness that is truly staggering.
You’re immediately on shaky ground if you put the words football and loyalty together in a sentence. Add players to that sentence and you will find yourself on a linguistic fault line. If you’re Brendan Rodgers and you talk about football and loyalty you should really expect to laughed out of the room.
When looking at the shortest managerial reigns in football you’d have to go a long way to beat Leroy Rosenior’s ten minutes in charge of Torquay. However, on the Dario Gradi scale of longevity Brendan Rodgers’ 192 days in charge of Watford is definitely at the Rosenior end.
Why did Brendan Rodgers leave so abruptly? He wasn’t sacked for under-performing, Rodgers had his head turned by an – at the time – more successful club. Jimmy Russo – then the Watford chairman – told local press, “once Brendan had confirmed his desire to discuss the opportunity and Reading had met the contractual compensation figure we were powerless to stop him doing so”. Well, isn’t that quite the familiar situation. In the weeks before Rodgers jumped shipped for the, ahem, bright lights of Berkshire he had assured Watford fans of his “100 per cent commitment” to the club.
Brendan Rodgers also likes to bang the proverbial drum when it comes to the subject of respect. Respect is a two-way street which Rodgers clearly didn’t fancy taking a stroll down as he agreed to loan Pepe Reina to Napoli recently without even discussing it with the goalkeeper.
It is hard to disagree with the notion that Luis Suarez has behaved poorly over his desire to leave Liverpool. However, the sympathy one might feel towards the club is diluted when we look previous departures in Suarez’s career. Liverpool bought him presumably knowing this background.
Agreeing with Brendan Rodgers on the issue of Luis Suarez is probably the right thing but Rodgers’ past conduct just makes incredibly hard to do. It’s a little like a man who has been imprisoned for violent crimes moaning that he’s been beaten up in the prison yard. You know it’s wrong but it is hard to get upset about.