Most of us have been there. We’ve been the last to know we were about to be replaced in the workplace. Everyone knows before you. Your bosses cannot look you straight in the eye.
Brendan Rodgers will have known for weeks that he was a dead man walking. Football management is a small world. If I knew he was going to be replaced two weeks ago, I feel confident in assuming Rodgers had also learned that his American bosses were talking to two potential successors.
It would be easy to say the buck stops with Rodgers. After all, during his reign, the club has signed some of the very worst footballers to ever don a Liverpool shirt. But it wouldn’t be accurate.
No good comes from decisions being made by committees. That’s been proved at Anfield.
Rodgers was not alone in wasting more than 200 million pounds on players so lacking in ability or interest that even he ended up dropping some of them soon after they had been signed. He had help. One of those men was the first to tell him he had been sacked. Does Ian Ayre keep his job as Chief Executive? If so, why?
This is what Ayre once said about the committee: “We have a head of analysis, a head of recruitment, a first-team manager, myself. All of those people are inputting into a process that delivers what a director of football would deliver.
“By bringing those two processes together, you get a much more educated view of who you should and shouldn’t be buying. What we believe, and we continue to follow, is you need many people involved in the process.”
So how did some of those people perform?
What about the Head of Recruitment, Dave Fallows? Surely if ever a man has failed in his job it is he. Where to begin with the hopeless individuals you have recruited, Dave?
And then there’s the Head of Performance and Analysis, Michael Edwards. I’ll do your job for you, Michael. Take it from me, the performance of the majority of players signed has been lacking in application and ability. You can have that analysis for free!
The committee sanctioned a spend of £80 million on seven players only this past summer. Throwing good money after bad, as my mother would have said.
On the pitch it is true that Rodgers had previously been flattered by the presence of Luis Suarez. Which manager wouldn’t be? Suarez has proven himself to be a world class footballer. Any club would miss him and Liverpool couldn’t replace him. Despite spending fortunes.
Suarez and Raheem Sterling were at Anfield before the Americans took control. Their sales brought in £120 million. The money was wasted.
Which member of that transfer committee had the final say when it came to bidding for players? Did Rodgers have the final say? Did Ian Ayre? Who gave the green light to thrown £16 million down the drain called Mario Balotelli? Brendan Rodgers will no doubt say: “the buck stops with me.” It doesn’t.
He can be blamed for mystifying game plans. In April of 2014, it wasn’t so much the Steven Gerrard slip that cost Liverpool a share of the points at home against Chelsea. It was the tactics Rodgers employed in that game. A 0-0 draw was there for the taking.
Likewise the crazy manner in which his players went for glory in the subsequent match. They led Crystal Palace 0-3 and Rodgers should have had the players shut up shop. Instead they attacked like men possessed by greed. Palace fought back and the two points dropped in that 3-3, added to not settling for a point at home to Chelsea, ultimately cost Liverpool the title. Manchester City won the Premier League by two points.
Later, when self doubt was creeping in, Rodgers could certainly be blamed for the lamentable decisions he made prior to playing Real Madrid in the Champions League. And he is the reason Steven Gerrard is not still at Anfield (expect a return in some capacity).
But the problems at Liverpool are bigger than Brendan Rodgers.
Once the last pre-match strains of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ have faded away there is a lack of atmosphere at Anfield that is bewildering. When I grew up watching football at its best, in the 60’s, Anfield was a deafening place to watch football. The constant roar was intimidating to the opponents. For years now, ‘Silence is Golden’ could have been the club anthem.
There are too many busybodies at Liverpool. Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley didn’t need an army of suits to make the club successful.
I suspect Brendan Rodgers falls into that frame of being a good coach, but possibly not made for management. Some men of football are best and happiest on the training ground, not wearing a suit and having to deal with all the other nonsense that goes on in football these days. Others are made for management and not coaching. Too often clubs think the same man can do both. More often than not, that plan fails.
Brendan Rodgers will bounce back. As for the new man about to take charge at Anfield, he’s got a job on his hands. Any obvious improvement in team morale is sure to help. But quality is what the club requires. Persuading top class footballers to join a club that’s not competing in the Champions League will be a challenge for the new manager.
The club needs to get back to basics. Return to a way of working that brought so much success to Anfield during the golden years. Stop signing second and third rate foreign footballers. Build from the bottom up. Acquire and breed players who will stay longer than a season or two. Return to an ethos that Liverpool is a club building for the long term and persuade players they will want to be a part of a reborn club. To be part of a big, title challenging future.
It will take time. Of course it will. But the American owners did give Brendan Rodgers time. They will likely give the new man even longer. After all, they have spent weeks trying to entice him to the club.
I often wonder what Bill Shankly would have made of recent events. The flipcharts. The army of coaches looking at diagrams during a match. The baffling babble Rodgers has spoken at times. The suits who think they know how best to run a football club.
If the new manager has to work with the same committee, the outcome will be the same. As far as I am aware, Albert Einstein never managed a football club. But this quote often attributed to him applies to Liverpool Football Club: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Or, as the incomparable Bill Shankly put it: “Football is a simple game made complicated by people who should know better.”