I discussed on Monday why Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford was the most apt demonstration of the importance of coaching ahead of signings, asserting that Brendan Rodgers’ affect on Liverpool in the last 12 months (and since he arrived in 2012) epitomises the significance of the work done week in week out on the training ground over the work done in the few months the transfer window is open.
In response, a Liverpool fan ‘Happy red’ responded in the comments section:
“Rodgers will get manager of the season and Suarez will get player of the season and he will get the golden boot and with sturridge 2nd and also CL football next season , what a great season we've had and anything else is a bonus ! Who knows PL ???”
This lead to me to contemplate how expectation is the key to contextualising, for example, a single game, a single performance, a season in its whole or a manager’s entire career – the old adage remains true: the key to happiness is low expectations.
Back to football and last season Liverpool finished 7th in the Premier League – there were arduous discussions and fervent debate over the direction he club was heading under Rodgers in his first season in charge after arriving from Swansea and his implementation of his style and philosophy, amidst a backdrop of the club missing the glory of the good old days and even the more recent success under Rafael Benitez, the despair at the wasted money on players deemed to have been failures and how long it would take for the Reds to be challenging for trophies again.
Flashback to May and the disappointment in the league position was clear but also paved the way for optimism things could only get better. Flash forward to August and the objective was European football, preferably Champions League qualification. Flash forward to Monday and Steven Gerrard states, quite rightly, Liverpool are title contenders and their going for it.
When Liverpool thrashed Arsenal in the opening 20 minutes of the game at Anfield, Rodgers was the hero, the master class strategist and the hero; when they beat Manchester United this weekend (as clear favourites ahead of the game) Rodgers’ fate (and mythical status as a demigod was sealed) there were even fans on Twitter comparing him to Bill Shankly.
In the context of this season – whatever the outcome in May – will change the expectations of the fans, the pundits, the journalists, the players, the owner and even the manager himself. Next term, he won’t be a former Swansea manager with some ideas still yet to pan out and come to full fruition at a club struggling to hold on to its star players and ambitions only of being re-considered European elite. (I make this point not to discredit or to be a killjoy but purely as a call for reason and calm).
Next season, whether Liverpool a) win the title or b) finish in the top four, Rodgers will have effectively reached a new level – a bit like a computer game – which means the new terrain is going to be harder and more dangerous and the skill required and experience necessary increase. Expectations become increased too, and the pressure that comes with it to progress and improve. If they win the title, they’ll be expected to win in again and then some. If they get the top four, they’ll be expected to at least challenge for the title.
I have no doubt Brendan Rodgers will be at Anfield for a long time but there must also be a collective effort to remember he is just a man, not a superhero. Liverpool are in the best shape they’ve been in for years and it’s in no small part down to him but timing and context also play a big role, as does the captain and the strike-force and the fact the likes of United and Tottenham have been poor this term.
Next season, who knows, but if the boss and the people around him at the club and who support the club all manage to keep their feet on the ground this summer and celebrate the success without letting it go to their heads, the future will be all the brighter for it for Liverpool Football Club and their coach.