You can be as curmudgeonly as you like, and some of us have set the bar markedly high in that regard, but it really does require a wilfully contrarian attitude to actively dislike Brendan Rodgers. Even the most hard-bitten naysayers will concede that the man's earnest enthusiasm and willingness to engage are admirable, if at times ill-advised. Similarly, even the most splenetic critics of his methods will acknowledge that the forty year old has a pleasing conviction about him with regard to how the game should be played.
His ebullience and brio are quite genuine and not the kind of self-conscious media persona some managers seem to favour. Rodgers can be quick with a quip and laughs readily, but essentially he is a serious man and this leaves him open to mockery from a perverse English media who prefer the clichéd sweary likes of Joe Kinnear or a banter merchant like Ian Holloway.
The Liverpool manager does not easily slot into any accepted trope and his solemn intensity has left him vulnerable to lazy derision. Think for a moment of the mind-warping arrogance of the West Ham manager, who has oft lamented the quirk of fate that meant he was not born Samuel Allardici, as this, clearly, is the only thing barring his way to the England job. And yet, it is Rodgers who is portrayed as a pomopous Brentian fantasist. Remarkable.
In my first piece for this fine blog, back in February, it was not difficult to discern a distinct wariness in the tone of what I wrote. A frustration with the Northern Irishman's needless loquaciousness was the the main source of discomfiture for your scribbler back then and, despite being considerably more circumspect of late, Rodgers still loves to talk. However, even then, with the club badly placed and the full effect of his new signings, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, still to be felt, I had a level of admiration for the way the man carried himself and the obdurate belief he professed in a philosophy of possession football.
Oddly, as Rodgers begins to properly embody the role of Liverpool manager, that much vaunted philosophy appears to have taken a bit of a back seat in recent matches, as the young coach tries to settle on a way of utilising the unique striking talents at his disposal. Death by football has transmuted into a more counter-attacking style based around getting Luis Suarez and Sturridge on the ball as quickly and as regularly as possible at the business end of the park. Brendan Rodgers has discovered that he likes to win even more than he likes to win stylishly. Practicality has edged ahead of aesthetic concerns.
The fear here, however, is that the baby will be thrown out with the bath-water. We all love three points, and often an ugly win is the most gratifying of all, but the majority of us bought fully into the idea of a high-pressing, possession-based style. We want our cake, Brendan, and we want to eat it too! Thankfully then, for those incurable aesthetes out there, Rodgers is very much focused on ensuring Liverpool Football Club remains synonymous with good football.
The salutary lesson taught by Arsenal on Saturday last has not been lost on the boss. In their performance, he saw what he is aiming for from his own Liverpool side -- a certain kind of confidence and boldness in possession, which is dependent on technically proficient players trusting their own abilities and the intelligence of those around them.
"Courage -- that is the key quality for me," he insisted. "Can you be brave on the pitch? Not in terms of 50-50 tackles, but having the ball and looking to play in areas that others wouldn't. I think my history as a coach shows I like players who are gifted technically and have courage when it comes to being in possession of a football. I would say you can't divorce the two -- ability and personality. It all comes as part of the package. A player's character is a crucial factor I look into before signing them. They also need to show a willingness to learn, regardless of age or experience; that's very important to me."
That last sentiment is revealing in that it shows a man who is confident in his ability to educate, irrespective of the status of his 'pupil.' Brendan Rodgers believes in this stuff. More pertinently, the manager believes in himself. I have never discerned any arrogance in Rodgers. He simply seems to enjoy the magnitude of his role and relish the idea of carving out his own place in Liverpool's great history. The British obsession with false modesty grates on my senses. Rodgers is genuinely humble but he has a clear vision of the future he wishes to create for himself and the club.
"I hope when my time as Liverpool manager is over, I'm remembered as someone who improved the team and left the club in a better position than he found it," he says. "That's the most important, that people recognise I did my best every day I was here to make Liverpool the best it can possibly be, while upholding the football values that this great club was built on. I hope they enjoy the style of football the team plays and recognise that we approach games to win them but win them in a way that entertains and makes them proud as Liverpool supporters.
"I am blessed and privileged to lead this club and I will cherish that for every second and minute I'm here. I don't see the job as stressful, I really don't. Of course there is pressure and expectation, but I wouldn't necessarily equate that with stress.There are hard-working people in Liverpool and up and down the country who encounter real stress, by worrying how to pay the bills and feed and clothe their children. That's stress, and I don't think it's fair to tally what they go through with the problems of being a football manager."
Some begrudging souls will read those words and delve deep into their shrivelled hearts to find only cynicism but I don't recall too many other pampered club figureheads expressing similar sentiments. I prefer to ecshew such jaundiced thinking and take Rodgers at face value. He's a developing manager, coaching a developing side, with a serious plan. I'll be the first to have a chuckle if it's warranted but instead of lampooning him and griping about every single thing, supporters would do well to be tolerant. This is no laughing matter to Rodgers and Liverpool Football Club will surely only benefit from his devotion.