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Rodgers: "This is Brilliant"

Liverpool are still ahead of nearest rivals Manchester City and Chelsea despite the demoralising defeat to the Londoners on Sunday. Brendan Rodgers has been quietly reminding his players of just that fact ahead of the last two games.

"And then I was thinking a huge sliding mirrored wardrobe over here for my suits and Colly's shorts...Mr. Henry? John?"
"And then I was thinking a huge sliding mirrored wardrobe over here for my suits and Colly's shorts...Mr. Henry? John?"
Alex Livesey

If life were a Hollywood action movie, and sometimes the level of absurdly histrionic drama in this scribbler's life suggests that it is, then right now we would all be munching comfortably enough on our offensively large bucket of popcorn as we head into the final act. For although our hero has been stopped in his tracks and is now prostrate, seemingly out for the count, we would just know that he will mount an against-the-odds comeback. The villain, a hulking lug with Manuel Pellegrini hair and a Jose Mourinho tatty gilet, stands sneeringly over our hero, knife glinting in the sun and ready to deliver the coup de grace, but by the time the credits roll, gilet boy will lie defeated and our hero will win the day. It's movie science. Never fails. Unless it's one of those pesky art house flicks.

Alas, real science and maths have the effrontery to be less malleable when it comes to logic and so, although the dream of a Liverpool title win still smoulders in all of our hearts, the fact is that no matter how magnificently our heroes fight at the end, it may not be enough. This then, is the incredibly awkward dilemma facing Brendan Rodgers. How does one convince a group of driven young men, who had the attainment of elysian perfection in their own hands, that they must fight even harder now that their fate is reliant on the actions of others? It's a quandary that has no doubt been foremost in the fastidious but eminently likable manager's mind since Sunday evening.

All season long Rodgers has striven to create an effectively harmonious group and the undeniable fruits of that concinnity are there for all to see. Liverpool Football Club are top of the Premier League with two games to go, having played the top flight's most beguiling football and scored almost a century of goals in the process. Young talents, like Raheem Sterling, Jon Flanagan, Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson and Mamadou Sakho have thrived under the guidance of the Irishman and hoary veterans like Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel have been in some of the best form of their careers.

For us fans the whole process has been invigorating, life-affirming and just bloody good fun. Those of us who've logged more than three decades as Reds have seen the club plummet from the very pinnacle of the game and toil for nigh on a quarter of a century in the shadows. This season, foreshadowed by the final months of the last campaign, has seen the most dramatic of resurgences. It's been a source of pure joy to watch Rodgers' charges, a welcome salve to battered pride to bask in their lofty position and and a blessed relief to consign the travails of recent times to the lachhrymal past.

The admirably unflappable Antrim man has a very clear take on the situation. What is perhaps most appealing about Rodgers' way of working is that he seems to be a practical man with a dreamer's soul. This is most clearly manifested in the style of play implemented by his players on the pitch. The Liverpool boss is an eloquent sort and can sometimes irritate more curmudgeonly types with his loquaciousness but others hold with the theory that you can never have enough communication and right now, Rodgers is framing things for the players and fans in a way that reminds us all of the context for this season's excellence.

"It’s good to be involved in this and it’s the only way you gain experience," insists the manager. "No matter where we finish, we will look to build on it, and press on from this position. We will embrace it. We still have work to do. We will go again and progress from here, but we are enjoying this position.  We want to win, of course, and we are in a brilliant position. But we must enjoy it - this is brilliant, the supporters are loving it, we are showing the real scale of the club and what these players are about, and that is just as important.

"I just reminded the players of the values of how we work. We have a way of working and I take pride in that. We might not have got the result (against Chelsea), but you have seen over the course of the season we have made great strides and we will continue to. At the start of the season, people saw it was a real challenge for us to be in the top four. So with two games to go to be in the top three, really, really challenging, it’s something that is really remarkable. But I’m not surprised, because of how we have worked and level the players have performed at. The games we won on our unbeaten run were exceptional, we were outstanding, and I have reminded them of that."

When the season ends and Rodgers privately takes stock, it will be with great pride, and rightly so, but he is not one for laurel-resting and has no doubt already been testing the munificence of John Henry and chums. To do anything other than bolster this squad of over-achievers with some of the finest footballers available would be scandalous folly. If things are done right, there is a framework, based on Rodgers' perspicacious guidance and the talented footballers who already don the Liverbird, to begin a new era of domination.

Liverpool are not in their current position as a result of serendipity but rather by dint of their sheer effort and talent. There may yet be cause for glorious wassail and joy unconfined if this team can somehow stay atop the division when the season's final whistle blows at Anfield on the 11th of May, but irrespective of the eventual placings this group of Rodgers' has taught us grumpy, wary cynics to love the game again.  I'm not a religious man, but bless them for that.

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