Swansea’s loss is Liverpool’s gain, at least when it comes to soccer managers. Liverpool FC announced on May 31 that Brendan Rodgers of Northern Ireland has been hired as the team’s new coach. Rodgers managed fellow English Premier League (EPL) club Swansea City last season after they were promoted to England’s top tier of soccer last summer.
The 39-year-old takes over from Kenny Dalglish who was let go at the end of the season. Dalglish led Liverpool to a disappointing eight-place finish in the 20-team league, but did manage to win the Carling Cup against Championship League team Cardiff in a penalty shootout. Liverpool also reached the final of the FA Cup, but were handed a 2-1 loss by Chelsea.
Roberto Martinez, current manager of EPL team Wigan, was also in the running, but Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group, who also own the Boston Red Sox, received a backlash from fans after he was announced as a possible candidate. Martinez’s teams have been mired near the bottom of the league for the past few seasons. However, most fans felt Rogers did an excellent job with his newly-promoted Swansea side and they finished in 11th place this season and played attractive soccer.
Tom Werner, chairman of Liverpool, said Rodgers is a great forward-thinking manager and is one of the best young teachers in the game who will focus on attacking soccer. Rodgers played in Northern Ireland as a youngster and at 22 years of age had landed a job as the manager of Reading’s youth academy team. He also worked at Chelsea as a youth-team manager and as manager at Reading and Watford.
Rodgers said he wasn’t really much of a player and that’s’ why he decided to get into coaching as a way to stay involved in the sport he loves. He added that he’ll need to earn the respect of the Liverpool players and is looking forward to the new season which kicks off in August.
Liverpool, who have won the English championship 18 times, suffered their worst placing in 18 years this season with 52 points, which was 37 points behind league leaders Manchester City. The only bright spot was the Carling Cup win, which was the team’s first trophy win in the past six years.
Rodgers said that he likes to combine aspects of the British and European styles of play and credits former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, now of Real Madrid, as being his biggest influence. Rodgers’ immediate goal will be to try and finish in the top four next season which would guarantee Liverpool a spot in the lucrative European Champions League competition. The team missed fourth spot by 17 points this year.
Rodgers said the ultimate goal over time will be to equal Manchester United’s record of 19 English titles. He said it’s not realistic to challenge for the title next season, but it’s still the team’s goal and it can hopefully be achieved in two or three years. The last time Liverpool won the league was 1990. However, the club which has won the European Cup five times is still one of the most popular and historic in the world.
Rodgers said Liverpool has a reputation of playing fast, offensive soccer and he hopes to be able to provide that as well as a disciplined defensive approach. He added that he’ll need to make a few roster moves to put the right type of team on the field. Rodgers didn’t come cheap though as Liverpool will reportedly pay Swansea in the neighborhood of $6.2 million for luring their manager away. Rodgers had a further three years to go on his contract with Swansea.