Saturday, 2 June 2012

Rodgers Wins The Fans By Accepting Anfield's Friendly Ghosts

Throughout most of last season, until he was eventually sacked, we were widely accused of blindly and unreasonably standing by Kenny Dalglish. It was just another example of Liverpool fans refusing to face up to our current state of mediocrity, while desperately trying to bridge the gap in bragging rights to the Champions League elite by clinging to a hero of the distant past.

We were just living off history, as has been the label for the past 20 years.

The criticism lingered beyond Dalglish's departure when many of us called for Rafa Benitez to be at the very least consulted, if not recruited while FSG were searching for a replacement. Liverpool fans pining for the past again.

Yet before I've even had time to sympathise with those whose clubs' identities are so empty that they consdier history worthless, we are being blanketed by a bizarre contradictory accusation. In the many articles published since the appointment of Brendan Rodgers, variations of the same second paragraph seem to be used to qualify what has been seen as a brave, intriguing move by FSG.

Does this sound familiar?

"Brendan Rodgers will now face the uphill task of winning over Liverpool's restless supporters, who demand a swift return to the Champions League and a title challenge."

Optional: Reference to Roy Hodgson, who was hounded out of Anfield by the baying mob before he'd even got both feet in the door, and subjected to cruel, detrimental chants of 'Dalglish' at every game.

So which are we? The group who stand by their managers too long in the face of the rest of the footballing world? Or the ruthless group of hard-to-please, fair-weather fans who cheer one week, boo the next, demand instant and sustained success, then swiftly cast aside their plastic flags and demand wholesale changes?

Rodgers unquestionably faces a huge challenge at Anfield, and many fans have had their reservations. He certainly wasn't my number one preference from the list of realistic potential targets. yet this apparent mammoth task of winning us over that is being banded around - he breezed through that on Friday morning.

Rodgers came prepared. He had done his research, even aware that he is the first Northern Irishman to manage the club since the very first, John McKenna. But most importantly, he thanked Kenny for the foundations he laid during the previous 18 months and praised him for his contributions to both club and city over the decades, inspiring us to our greatest glories and guiding us through the tragedies. He was clearly honoured to have become part of that history, and is determined to protect it.

Thank you, Brendan, for sharing what is important to us.

Here is a truth - in June 2010, Roy Hodgson was widely viewed as the wrong appointment, at the wrong time, made by the wrong regime at Liverpool Football Club. A lot of us were extremely concerned about the direction the club was heading in. However, he was given a warm reception on his Anfield bow, and we hoped for the best.

As the season started poorly, but before it got progressively worse to the point where we were fighting a pre-Christmas relegation battle, Hodgson began driving a wedge between himself and the history of Liverpool, and its fans.

His tenure became a tiresome series of slurs, aimed precisely at the people he should have been honoured to follow and be associated with. He blamed Benitez, who won us the greatest prize of all, for the team he inherited, and King Kenny for being his perceived successor in waiting, and even the fans themselves. Liverpool fans love to stand out from the crowd, and while we were the laughing stock of the league, our own manager turned on the very people who had the power and the propensity to protect him more than anyone else. We will forgive most things, even a run of appalling results, in the hope that things will get better.

We didn't turn on Roy Hodgson. Roy Hodgson turned on us. And please note, again, we never once collectively demanded he be removed from the club. No marches, no tennis balls, no chickens. And there wasn't a boo in evidence when he brought his West Brom team to Anfield at the end of last season.

Rodgers has already shown his hand. His results may or may not reflect his and the owners' ambitions over the coming seasons, and fans all round the world will discuss this, but he will always have our collective support when the team go out on the pitch.

'King Brenny' may never catch on, but I'm more than happy to be Rodgered next season. Let's hope he becomes another hero we can display our unique brand of support to, whether others sneer or not, during and beyond his time at the club. Good luck, Brendan.

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