Rodgers deserves respect not ridicule and the former Liverpool boss taking over Leicester is a big boost to the Premier League
PEOPLE could not wait to put the boot into Brendan Rodgers.
Familiar insults, such as “fraud”, “an imposter”, “charlatan” — and much worse — were in circulation when he walked out on Celtic to return to the Premier League with Leicester City.
At Tynecastle on Wednesday night, in Celtic’s first game since Rodgers left, a huge banner in the away end read: “You traded immortality for mediocrity. Never a Celt. Always a fraud.”
That is how football belittles the grafters, the hard-workers and those willing to break new ground in the pursuit of perfection and excellence.
Ambition is an enemy in this sport. To borrow one of Jose Mourinho’s many memorable phrases, it took Rodgers 20 years to become an overnight success.
He is mocked for being devoted to football management, to improving players, broadening their outlook and maximising potential.
It deserves respect, not ridicule.
The Special One took him to Chelsea, schooling the former Reading trainee in the art of management in a period when Mourinho looked like he had mastered it.
Rodgers absorbed it, adapted it and aligned it with his own thoughts on the way he wanted to see his teams play.
When he was interviewed by Watford for his first job in 2008, he bamboozled chairman Graham Simpson with an unrivalled level of information to cover every eventuality.
Rodgers is a meticulous planner, priding himself on preparation and application.
The legacy at his last three clubs — Celtic, Liverpool and Swansea — is of a man passionate about his principles and committed to a purist’s passing game. Rodgers knows his teams cannot hope to win 5-0 playing fantasy football every week — but his ideas are firm and fixed.
He should be admired for that.
Supporters of Swansea, where he ushered in the legendary “Swanselona” era, get all gooey when his name is mentioned.
At Liverpool he found a way to get the best out of a fluid, dreamy front three of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and a young Raheem Sterling.
That stuff takes planning, with some real thought put into finding a way to play three superstars up front.
Jurgen Klopp has adopted the same interchangeable system, with different personnel.
Rodgers twice won the treble with Celtic and left them eight points clear of Rangers when he accepted the challenge at Leicester.
In a pathetically weak league, Rodgers remodelled Celtic and turned them into a stylish, modern, progressive outfit.
If there is a particular criticism, then it would be his failure to leave a positive impression in the Champions League.
With inferior players trying to match the speed and silky skills of Barcelona (beaten 7-0 in 2016) and Paris Saint-Germain (0-5 and 7-1), they could not contain the elite.
At least he believed in his players, even if he ended up battered by two of European football’s top teams.
Rodgers’ detractors often overlook that he was the first coach to stop Pep Guardiola winning every week with Manchester City.
Celtic ended his ten-game hot streak in September 2016 when they drew 3-3 in the Champions League group phase.
For those who maintain it was a fluke, Celtic drew 1-1 at the Etihad in the return game.
Rodgers was influenced at a young age by Spanish football, committing to a continental-fusion (his words) after soaking up the touch, feel and ambience of their easy-going lifestyle.
That transformative approach will be applied when he gets to grips with Leicester’s powerful dressing room.
They have been looking for leadership and guidance ever since they unexpectedly won the Premier League in 2016.
Rodgers will provide that.
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He can sense the potential about the place, with the backing of a financially stable board providing the support to make it all happen.
The players are already onside, brimming with enthusiasm about a big-name appointment at the King Power.
Rodgers wants to test himself again tactically in the Premier League, to challenge himself in a crowded market of top-class coaches.
When he takes Leicester to his old club Watford this weekend, English football should welcome him back.
Garner take a lot or work
OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER makes no secret of the requirement to be a modern-day Manchester United player.
Solskjaer compared James Garner’s game with Michael Carrick’s after the youngster made his debut in the 3-1 win at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
It was quite a statement by the caretaker manager — but he also made it clear that expectations and standards are sky-high at Old Trafford.
It is early days for Garner but Solskjaer is setting the bar high for these boys.
Chance for Scott
SCOTT PARKER was under the impression he would get the Fulham job when Slavisa Jokanovic was sacked.
Now that Claudio Ranieri has got the boot, Parker will get the chance to make an impression as the Cottagers head coach.
Keeping the West Londoners up is beyond most — but Parker has firm ideas on the Fulham team of the future.
Cont go on like it
FOR a game played at such a high technical level, the women’s Continental League Cup final deserved more than 2,424 at Bramall Lane last weekend.
It finished 0-0 and Manchester City beat Arsenal on penalties.
But the bigger challenge is finding a way to raise the profile and increase the numbers attending a final of this significance.