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Rodgers: "Loving Every Minute"

Novel it may be, but Brendan Rodgers is relishing his team's title challenge for all it's worth and he's paid tribute to the staff that have helped his team perform at the high level they have maintained thus far.

Colly had just suggested Raheem and Sakho as a centre half pairing. Sometimes Brendan wondered...
Colly had just suggested Raheem and Sakho as a centre half pairing. Sometimes Brendan wondered...
Michael Steele

Once, during a marathon imbibing session in a famous Dublin late-night establishment, your scribbler spent half an hour expounding dunkenly on the burdensome travails of the modern actor to one of the world's most recognisable rock stars. Don't ask. This type of thing used to just happen in the 90s. Mid-natter, I caught our reflection in the ornate mirror behind the bar and smiled at the oddness of it all. Last night, as I plunged into the darkest caverns of the internet in order to find something to tickle your fancies, another such pleasingly incongruous image proffered itself. Staring back at me, the picture of rude, dentally-enhanced health and fashionably clad in a fitted polo shirt and quilted jacket, was Brendan Rodgers with his arm around beaming British hip hop star Tinie Tempah.

The most rewarding thing about the story was that the jaundiced hacks who'd written about it across various media had eschewed the opportunity to poke fun at the Liverpool boss and instead plumped for some cringeworthy drivel about how a Liverpool title win might be, as Mr. Tempah would have it, Written in the Stars. The significance of this shouldn't be understated. It is not long ago that such an image would have been journalistic manna from heaven -- a chance to poke fun at the Northern Irishman and undermine his credibility. More to the point, the mealy mouthed malcontents within the club's own fan base would have had a field day, polluting social media with disproportionate bile and invective. Rodgers, however, has won grudging respect from even the most misanthropic souls, which is quite the achievement in itself.

Never less than effusive and ever-optimistic, Rodgers is revelling in Liverpool's position as Premier League leaders. He is justifiably proud of what he and his players have achieved thus far without betraying even a trace of hubristic smugness. This is a man all too aware of the onerous burden of expectation. You see, the Ghosts of Successes Past have as much capacity to act as cruel admonishments of comparative under-achievement as they have of being spurs to further glory. Rodgers, despite the misrepresentation of some, is no braggart. He is unfailingly polite with the media and has a pleasing and apposite humility, never losing sight of the fact that, as Liverpool manager, he has won nothing yet.

"I'm loving every minute of it. This is brilliant," averred the 41 year old. "I may not have been in this position before but I have been in football a long time. This is only my fifth year as a manager but I've been stood on the touchline coaching for 20 years. I am just really enjoying seeing us develop as a team. When you play and work for a club like Liverpool there is always pressure every day of your life. I walk past the European Cup every day when I walk into the training ground and I know there are another four in the museum at Anfield. That can be pressure but only if you let it be pressure.

"For us as a team, this is why we work hard. We've worked hard all season to be in this position. Now we're there we're going to fight and work even harder to stay there. I've been through much worse things in my life than being in the title race at the top of the Premier League. It's insignificant in terms of some psychological things which have gone on. This feeling of working well and winning games is great and long may it continue."

Rodgers is very quick to deflect the new-found acclaim he has begun to steadily garner, preferring instead to emphasise the collaborative effort that has led to the best Premier League campaign a Liverpool team has ever had to this point of the season. Having bonded with the loyal offensive coach Colin Pascoe at Swansea, Rodgers did not hesitate in asking the noted leg exhibitionist to accompany him to Liverpool. Once ensconced at Anfield it did not take the new gaffer long to promote ex-Redman Mike Marsh from the Under 18 team to become first team coach. The trio, who recently completed the Liverpool Half Marathon, have evolved into quite the unit and Rodgers is quick to acknowledge their input.

"I get wonderful support from my assistants," insists the Carnlough man. "My staff here are absolutely critical to what we’ve done. I couldn’t do it on my own and they are a key part of the success here. I felt going to Swansea I needed people who shared the vision and the ideas. Colin had worked there under a few managers from Kenny Jackett to Roberto Martinez and Paulo Sousa. He had a clear identity with the Swansea ideas.

"I did my homework on him and found that he was a loyal, honest man. He was an attacking coach who was keen to work in this way. He understood the philosophy. I had no doubts about bringing Colin to Liverpool. He’s a wonderful co-ordinator between the players and myself. I work closely with players. I talk and communicate with them a lot and Colin offers great support on that front. They respect him."

Similarly, Marsh has become the most trusted of lieutenants as Rodgers continues to evolve his own managerial style. Thus far, the young boss has been pretty faultless with his instincts and he believed he needed a connection to the city and the club's previous success which Marsh, a stylish midfielder in his day, provides.

"It’s very important for me that I have people from this city around me who understand exactly it means to play and work for Liverpool Football Club," Rodgers said. "Mike is a Liverpool boy who has a close affinity with the club. He is developing as a coach all the time and developing his communication with top players."

Po-faced naysayers will dismiss all of this as frothy guff, but then those same sepulchral souls would have sneeringly derided anyone suggesting that Liverpool would have the title in their own hands in mid-April. There is a positivity and momentum around Anfield, the likes of which has not been witnessed for over two decades. Those of us who savoured comparative success of the Benitez era can see now how tense that time really was. Enjoyable? Yes, most certainly. Fun? Not so much.

In a world in which grim unpleasantness abounds, fun is something to be cherished and embraced. This is carnival stuff -- a beguiling surprise of the very best kind. Irrespective of Sunday's result, this campaign has been the most fun many of us older types have had since John Barnes bestrode the pitch, resplendent in his short shorts. Whether you're lucky enough to be in the stadium, or whether, like me, you'll be prowling maniacally in front of the television, remember to take a moment to smile. In fact, laugh your bloody head off, because this is magical. This is fun. Come on Redmen.

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