In the bad old days, the standard of coaching available to even semi-professional teams was lamentably shabby. The first decent side I represented had a 'manager' who used to rely on a single inane mantra as the validation of his existence. The minibus would arrive at whatever ground we were visiting, we players would head to the changing rooms and the senior ones amongst us would start the process of motivating and encouraging.
Unfailingly, just before we went out and the captain took the warm-up, this amiable little old codger, with a permanent air of benign condescension about him, would amble in, look around beatifically and declare, "Right lads, we're here for the win, not for the spin." His Churchillian oration complete, he would then exit serenely and take up his place on the sideline.
On alternate weeks, when we played at our own humble stadium, and there was therefore no "spin" in any bus required, he simply would not appear in the changing rooms at all, shorn as he was of his solitary motivational tool. Somebody really should have helped the poor man coin a rhyming catchphrase applicable to home fixtures.
Modern coaching is an altogether more complex affair and whilst the best coaches are usually skilled communicators who can successfully articulate complicated ideas in a way that even the most bovine of mouth-breathers in his squad can comprehend, there is also a lot to be said for Shankly's famous maxim that "football is a simple game complicated by idiots." Brendan Rodgers appears to straddle the two extremes comfortably.
Whilst evangelical about the vision he has for the club and the style of football the team should play, he is also a savvy enough operator to retain a slight distance from his players. Leaders of men should, in the opinion of this scribbler, have an air of authority which is utterly respected, and according to the club's most senior professional, Steven Gerrard, the Northern Irishman is not shy about issuing a "telling off," even to the England captain himself or to, say, Raheem Sterling, should either man be less than steady in their behaviour.
Gerrard has an unparalleled status at the club which could make him a dangerous nemesis were he to disapprove of the work being done by the Carnlough man. Having been guided through his career by the respected likes Gérard Houllier, Rafa Benitez and Kenny Dalglish, the captain knows something of what makes a good manager. In a relationship not dissimilar to the incredibly successful rugby partnership of Joe Schmidt and Brian O'Driscoll, the Liverpool captain seems to have found a coach at the latter end of his playing career that he is inspired and reinvigorated by.
"The manager keeps tweaking and tinkering with the formation and making little subtle changes to personnel and tactics and it is coming off from week to week," enthused the Huyton native. "I have been absolutely blown away by his sessions, his tactics and his maturity in the job and I am learning off him every single day. When you become a little bit of an older player, you look to see how the manager does certain things and he has been fantastic for me personally. He is a young coach who has been there and earned the right to become Liverpool manager."
The effusiveness of the captain's praise is encouraging for many reasons. It speaks to a unity in the camp but it also means that the most influential figure in the club's recent history has fully embraced Rodgers and his methodologies. Gerrard himself, is a far more measured character these days. A man who has admittedly been plagued by anxiety all his career, there was a time when the captain's sepulchral mood could pretty much guarantee the team would not win.
It is heartening to notice how much Liverpool's number eight has matured and how politically phlegmatic he can now be. When the BBC's Clare Balding recently questioned him regarding the mealy mouthed comments from Alex Ferguson about how he was not a "top, top player," Gerrard was honest enough to admit it hurt, but playfully drew attention to the fact that the former Dark Lord of Mancunia had tried to sign him on a couple of occasions. In the past such slights would have led Gerrard down a negative path of gloomy introspection. These days, the combative, yet creative midfielder is an altogether calmer and more statesman-like figure, guiding referees through matches and representing club and country on endless media duties with effortless grace and charm.
When he begins to expound on the day-to-day interactions at Melwood, Gerrard paints a picture of a happy, unified and driven camp. He is unequivocal in his insistence that this positivity and togetherness has been fostered by Rodgers' working methods and force of personality.
"That starts from the top," said Gerrard. "The manager is very keen on team spirit and togetherness. When you play for Liverpool you have to accept pressure, you have to take it on the chin and perform. But when you have got a manager who is making you feel good, but who is also not scared to give you a good one-on-one telling off as well, then he has the perfect ingredients.
"When you are working together daily and trying to achieve things together, it is important you all stick together, have a laugh and enjoy it as you go along. But you can only get that togetherness, spirit and happiness when you do the dirty work and go the extra mile. That is what these players are doing for each other right now."
Little wonder that the result of such a buoyant camp has been success on the pitch. In managing to impress, unify and inspire personalities as diverse as those of Gerrard, Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, Rodgers has shown a managerial adroitness that bodes well for the future of the club under his ever-improving stewardship. This season will pan out as it will but it is clear that Brendan Rodgers, aided by the unmitigated support of his captain, is building something very exciting at Liverpool.