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Brendan Rodgers: A brief history of Liverpool’s new manager

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source: Getty ImagesHe’s only 39 years old. Kenny Dalglish was 59 when he returned. Roy Hodgson was hired at 62. Rafa Benítez was 44, and Gerard Houllier was 50. While the difference between Benítez’ and Rodgers’ ages isn’t that big, the former Swansea City manager’s lack of experience makes this a big shift for Liverpool. They’re going new. They’re going young.

They’re also going away from a man with huge playing experience to one with virtually none. Kenny Dalglish is thought by many to be the best player in Liverpool history thanks to his striking exploits from 1977-1990 (scoring 169 times). For Rodgers, a genetic knee problem ended his career just as he was leaving Northern Ireland.

At 18, he had moved to Reading, but Rodgers never played a senior game. By the time he was 20, the defender was done battling his condition in reserve games. He hung up his boots and started his second career.

In time, Rodgers became the head youth development at Reading, a job that would see him spend a large chunk of his 20s driving the English countryside trying to mine talent. While it wasn’t playing, it did lead to his big break: Being lured to Chelsea to join José Mourinho.

“I like everything in him,” Mourinho told the BBC last year, explaining why he sought out Rodgers to head Chelsea’s academy. “He is ambitious and does not see football very differently from myself. He is open, likes to learn and likes to communicate.”

His first manager’s job came only four seasons ago. He took over Jay DeMerit’s Watford after a slow start to the 2008-09 season had the Hertfordshire club near the bottom of England’s second division. After some initial stumbles, Rodgers had the Hornets mid-table by season’s end.

The turnaround earned him an ill-fated move back to Reading. Steve Coppell had just guided the Royals to fourth but left following his sixth season with the club, having failed to return Reading to the Premier League.

Rodgers’ tenure would be much shorter. He lasted half a season, winning only six of 23 matches before agreeing to leave the Madejski Stadium, leaving the then-36-year-old in a bit of a managerial wilderness.

It wouldn’t last. The next year, Rodgers was back in the game, moving to Wales to take over at the Liberty Stadium. It was a perfect match: A club committed to playing “progressive” soccer (as Rodgers calls it) hiring a man relishing the responsibility of implementing it.

In his first year on the job, Rodgers returned Swansea to the first division for the first time since 1983. Former Chelsea academy recruit Scott Sinclair, who Rodgers had brought to Swansea, scored three goals at Wembley Stadium to lead Swans through the Championship playoff. And in their Premier League debut, Swansea finished 11th, all the while while cementing their reputation for playing “progressive,” attractive soccer.

Now, four years after making his managerial debut (and just over two years after leaving Reading), Rodgers has one of the most prized managerial positions in English soccer. It’s a rise not unlike that of Mourinho’s, who was steering Chelsea to its first Premier League title just four years after debuting at Benfica.

Rodgers’ managerial career

Team Tenure Record
(W-L-D)
Win Pct.
Watford Nov. 2008 – June 2009 13-12-7 40.6%
Reading June 2009 – Dec. 2009 6-11-6 26.1%
Swansea City July 2010-May 2012 43-33-30 44.8

Previous Liverpool managers (July 1998-May 2012)

Manager Tenure Record
(W-L-D)
Win Pct.
Gérard Houllier July 1998 – May 2004 165-79-81 50.8%
Rafael Benítez June 2004 – June 2010 194-79-77 55.4%
Roy Hodgson July 2010 – Jan. 2011 13-9-9 41.9%
Kenny Dalglish Jan. 2011 – May 2012 35-21-17 47.9%

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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