When Liverpool host Oldham Athletic tomorrow in the FA Cup, it will serve as much more than a simple cup tie between Premier League giants and League One minnows.
Narrative is everything.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will face his own son in a family battle frought with redemption and friendly competition – along with actual competition.
Anton Rodgers, 20 years old and manning the central midfield for Oldham, has journeyed a long way to simply get the opportunity to play his father at legendary Anfield.
The young’in began in Chelsea’s academy before making his way to Brighton & Hove Albion (on his father’s advice) on his first professional contract. He fittingly debuted in the FA Cup against conference side Wrexham as a 63rd minute substitute.
That was his only appearance at Brighton, before they shipped him off to Exeter for a 2-month loan and ultimately released him in May of this season.
Not, however, before a very difficult period in the family’s lives. Anton and three teammates at Brighton were charged – and ultimately cleared after a retrial – of sexual assault and voyeurism of a teenage girl during their time at the club.
“As parents, both his mum and I found it really, really difficult, especially when you know the innocence of your son,” said the elder Rodgers to the Guardian.
Now, with it all behind them, the pair can focus on not just their individual careers, but the relationship between the two.
But Brendan Rodgers is well aware of how fate can play a part in these matches. With Oldham having bombed Liverpool out of the Cup last season, the 40-year-old manager is taking no chances.
“It is also a situation that I will want the players to pay attention to,” said Rodgers, “because the footballing gods sometimes come into it as well. With the footballing gods, he could end up getting a goal.”
Now with Oldham, Anton has featured in seven league matches this season (two starts), and with Lee Johnson’s good relationship with the family, it’s certainly possible Anton could get a runout – if not a start – against his dad.
However much he plays, no question there will be a sense of family to the match’s atmosphere.