After a slow, but progressive first season at the helm, Brendan Rodgers’ Reds exploded into life. Three consecutive 1-0 victories to start the 2013/14 season showed a growing maturity, and bolstered by the return of Luis Suarez, fresh off his second long-term ban, the club were propelled to new heights.
A 5-0 thrashing of Tottenham at White Hart Lane confirmed what many had already thought – this Liverpool team was capable of something special. And they continued to prove so; Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham and Man United all felt the wrath of Liverpool’s attacking brilliance as the Reds tore through opponent after opponent.
An 11-game winning run, including what looked like the title-winning victory against Manchester City, put Liverpool’s first Premier League title in touching distance. But football can be cruel – as Steven Gerrard can attest to – and we all know what happened next.
Despite that, Rodgers stood defiant as Liverpool closed their season with a victory over Newcastle. Losing the title was devastating, but fans recognized that something greater was at play.
With booming chants of “Brendan Rodgers” ringing around Anfield, the Liverpool boss responded by passionately thumping the liverbird embroidered on his suit jacket and applauding the fans who, for the first time in his career, showed him unified support.
A mere seven months ago, after a remarkable season, he stood on the touchline as a beacon of hope for the club. This was the right man for the Liverpool job.
Fast forward to December 2014, and the sound of his name echoing across stadiums is something Rodgers can scarcely remember. Despite his extraordinary feats with Liverpool, there are many calling for his head.
And not entirely without merit.
The swashbuckling side that scored 101 Premier League goals the previous season now find themselves outscored by Swansea, West Ham and Southampton. Dejan Lovren, purchased to shore up the Reds’ back line, has had the exact opposite effect as Liverpool continue to look shaky whenever they’re attacked. The club’s £115 million transfer window has yet to bear fruits on the pitch. A very doable Champion’s League group has been fluffed, and at time of writing, the Reds are lingering depressingly in 11th place in the Premier League.
Yet, with 22 games left to be played, they are only seven points off fourth-placed West Ham, who, with all due respect, are likely to fall off (as Southampton have already started to).
Despite fans hoping for another title challenge, realistically, solidifying Champion’s League status would be considered a success for this season. And Liverpool aren’t anywhere near being out of that race.
And although Rodgers has been branded stubborn, he’s tried to tinker in an attempt to right his wrongs. He’s reintroduced Lucas and Toure to great effect, he’s tried to manage Gerrard better and get him further forward, and on Sunday he put Raheem Sterling up top against Manchester United.
The tinkerer from last season still exists, he just isn’t having quite the same amount of success – but that’s OK. He’s a young manager, still learning on the job. He’s bound to make mistakes.
He will and has got things wrong, but the question should be if last season showed enough to say he’ll get them right again. For me, it undoubtedly has.
Rodgers is deserving of criticism, it’s in his job description. But he also deserves praise for last season. The songs, the atmosphere, the performances, the belief – those are all, at least in part, down to Brendan Rodgers. That shouldn’t make him immortal or above being criticized, but at the very least he deserves the respect and faith of Liverpool fans.
After all, this is the same man who brought back attacking, intelligent football to Liverpool. The same man who had the balls to bring a 17-year-old Raheem Sterling into the side and who has helped him grow exponentially. The same man who purchased Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho, and has seen them both revive their careers. The same man who built a team that allowed Luis Suarez to break Premier League records, dazzle Liverpool fans and play a style of football that harnessed his madness.
The same man who brought back fear of Liverpool Football Club.
Those very fans are now calling for his head, but they would do well to remember what it felt like to sing “we’re the best football team in the land” and actually mean it.
This was the man who made you dream, who made you believe. Give him the chance to do it again. He deserves it.