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Being: Brendan Rodgers

He's come a long way from his enforced flirtation with reality television and now, seventeen months later, Brendan Rodgers is instead flirting with the holy grail of Champions League football for Liverpool.

"Oi, Enrique! Put your shirt back on, will you?"
"Oi, Enrique! Put your shirt back on, will you?"
Clive Brunskill

Recently, in the course of my working day, I encountered two of the most objectionable people I've had the misfortune to have to interact with in eighteen years as a professional. Sitting grimly before a glowing monitor some, nine hours later, I was still a ball of irritation, outrage and esprit d'escalier.

You see, baseless criticism has a way of catching one on the hop and causing reactions of either hurt silence or inarticulate bluster. On this occasion, I trod the middle ground between both, in an attempt to preserve professional decorum in the face of shameful ignorance and slander. Afterwards, I wished I'd been truer to myself, less circumspect, and infinitely more dismissive of those pontificating charlatans. Regrets, dear reader, I've had a few.

As he reflects on nearly a year and a half in charge of Liverpool Football Club, Brendan Rodgers too, will have regrets. Certain selections will rankle, trust in certain players will sting, he may even have finally thought better of his black-on-black match-day Mussolini look, but chief amongst his reasons for chagrin, no doubt, is the now notorious Being: Liverpool documentary and those bloody envelopes.

The whole exercise has been analysed to death but one serious point must always be made about it. The documentary seriously impaired Rodgers' ability to be taken seriously. It was an unwitting stitch-up job, presenting a very serious and earnest man in a way that made it all too easy for critics to sneer and for his own club's supporters to whinge. And sneer and whinge they did.

How many lazy hacks, in receipt of actual money for their inept scrawlings, drew from the same well and ridiculed Rodgers as a David Brentian buffoon, full of faux-motivational guff and management speak? How many Liverpool forums then embarrassingly parroted that trope? Rodgers was on a loser from the off. It is to the Northern Irishman's credit that he has rehabilitated his reputation significantly in the interim, but he clearly wishes the show had never happened.

"I didn't like it...I'm a very private person," he told ESPN. "I know it was great for the American supporters to see, but my own feeling is I don't like being intruded on and for people to see my private life."

Just as the envelopes in the team meeting had "no names" and were essentially a misjudged attempt to establish authority, so the documentary was vacuous and probably did more harm than good overall, although this writer is still unsure whether to be eternally grateful or bitterly resentful of the unforgettable image of our Harley-riding managing director. It's a mood thing.

Rodgers, however, seems genuinely impressed by the American ownership of the club and, like Kenny Dalglish before him, he goes out of his way to speak about how supportive they've been. He has lauded the FSG modus operandi and business philosophy, referring to it, a touch awkwardly, as a "fusion between realistic expectations but also wanting to win." He is not afraid to dismiss the Americans' ability to compete financially with the petro-wealth of Manchester City or Chelsea, however, and is keen to explain that Liverpool must do things in "a different way." For the Liverpool boss, the Borussia Dortmund of Jurgen Klopp is the template.

"They went on a run in five years to get back to the heights," explains Rodgers. "Obviously, we're in England but we're looking at a similar timeline. Whether that's in my time or not, I will do my best."

The Antrim man says he has spoken to John Henry and Tom Werner, in the wake of the Boston Red Sox victory in the World Series, telling them he was "very proud to be part of their organization...because they've shown they are winners." There is, no doubt, an element of self-interested calculation at play in the expression of those sentiments. If Liverpool are to reach the heights all supporters crave, the manager will need backing and displays of even greater dedication and largesse than Henry's recent Suarez Airways gesture.

"We've supported the squad, we've brought in some quality players, we've brought in some players as cover," he insists. "The next stage for us is to bring in players who are better than what we have. [For the record, I paused here just as you probably have, gentle reader, and tried to divide his signings into "quality" and "cover" - I'd bet the players have too.] If we are looking for a top player we have to convince them to come and be part of the project here, which I believe is the most exciting project around -- getting Liverpool back to the top. A lot of those players do want to play Champions League football and we have lost players purely because of that, but it makes me even more determined to get back to that level in order to keep the level of players improving."

Again, like Dalglish before him, Luis Suarez has been the central figure in Rodgers' Liverpool reign to date. The Uruguayan's time on Merseyside has been a whirl of maddening controversy and spirit-shocking brilliance. His penchant for public auditions for The Walking Dead left Rodgers without his services for the first six Premier League matches of this campaign, on the back of a summer in which Suarez and his agent, Pere Guardiola, batted their eyelids coquettishly at Real Madrid, Arsenal and anyone else potentially donning the Champions League logo on their kits this season.

Despite these acts of stupidity and betrayal, the impossibly gifted forward has since returned to the fold, thwarted in his efforts to switch to London by the hard-line business stance of Henry and FSG, whose disdain was apparent in the sarky tweet from the big kahuna on the subject of recreational smoking at the Emirates. The impact Suarez has made on his return has been a soothing balm to the heart-scald felt by most fans, as they've watched him plunder eight goals in six matches since his return.

"Some of the things he has done, he knows was wrong," said Rodgers, with a cavalier disdain for English grammar. "Some of them have been really testing situations as a manager -- there's been some challenging moments. Seventeen months on, as I sit here, I am a much better manager for that experience. Over time Luis is maturing. He's a more responsible player since he's come back onto the field. That won't stop his desire or his will to win. It's something that if we have more throughout the squad, we'll continue to do very well."

And that, friends, is what Brendan Rodgers is about. You may occasionally cringe at his loquaciousness, you may quibble with his selections and tactics, you may even have grave issues, as I do, with his pitch-side apparel but you cannot fault the man's positivity and drive, two qualities he has needed in abundance since stepping into the Anfield dugout. Anything but a win in the derby on Saturday and the keyboard warriors and photoshop amateurs will be searching their shallow minds for David Brent imagery but over time Brendan Rodgers is beginning to win most fair-minded observers around. Okay?

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