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A Wonderful Platform

With the rawness of narrowly missing the ultimate prize beginning to abate, Liverpool fans are left to dreamily contemplate Champions League football under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers and hopefully spearheaded by Luis Suarez.

For all his talents, Brendan had yet to master the slippery art of the handshake...
For all his talents, Brendan had yet to master the slippery art of the handshake...
Michael Steele

When your scribbler was choosing his third level courses back in the middle of the seventeenth century, he was neurotically early as always. Communications was top of the list. Due to competition for places, it required the applicant to attain an eye-watering five A grades and had a beguiling sexiness to it resulting from the winning combination of a new tricked-out college housing the course, reputed employment guarantees upon qualification and a feeling of exclusivity. Second on the list was English Literature in one of the continent's oldest universities -- the kind of place you go to read voraciously for four years in between bouts of absinthe-induced dementia. Secretly, I always hoped I would fall short of the ridiculous points required to go and learn how to point a microphone and so, as the deadline for submission approached, English Literature went back to the top and that late decision proved to be one of the best I've ever made.

It's fanciful in the extreme to see the Luis Suarez scenario in quite the same way, but hey, it's Friday and a modicum of frivolity is apposite, so pray indulge me. Last summer the glinting allure of the Champions League was the only rational reason offered by Suarez for his contemplation of abandoning the august surroundings of Anfield. The history and status of Liverpool Football Club are such that they require no exegesis, especially amongst the readers of these scribbles, and yet history and status count for little amongst the thrusting young blades of modern football, all of whom yearn for the auriferous hue of Europe's finest competition.

Having had his wings clipped, the Uruguayan attacker was forced to play the season in Liverpool red, a season of individual brilliance which, despite being foreshortened by his own utter mindlessness, was amongst the most impressive witnessed by this fan in almost four decades of watching the Anfield men. Much of the credit for the sea change in Liverpool's standing must go to this pugilistic magician but the pulchritudinous vista that saw the club topping the table with only weeks remaining in the season is also very much due to the feat of prestidigitation performed by Brendan Rodgers.

The 41 year old Irishman has made a mockery of the Cassandras who predicted a struggle to even attain fifth place. He is rightly proud of the efforts of his outstanding group and whilst actually winning the title would have been one of the finest managerial achievements in decades, the securing of a close second and automatic qualification for the Champions League is a hell of a consolation prize and should not be taken for granted. Rodgers cuts an impressive figure these days. Of course, success will add a degree of charm and gravitas to even the most truculent or farouche of individuals -- oh, hello Jose -- but listening to the Carnlough native in person on Wednesday evening, I was struck by the same easy eloquence and calm which has translated to millions via television.

He spoke of the impressiveness of the fans and his ongoing awe at the esteem in which the club is held -- a 5.30 kick-off for the team's post-season friendly against Shamrock Rovers saw an almost capacity 42,000 crowd at Dublin's Aviva Stadium. When pressed by your scribbler, the manager was also very interesting on the topic of the qualities he will be looking for in potential recruits, claiming that as well as having the correct mentality, a degree of adaptability was also attractive to him as a coach.

"You'll get some players who are specialists and who need to play in particular positions," he insisted. "But if we can get players in who are multi-functional, and can play in different roles and are multi-dimensional in their work, it sets us up and gives me more options as a coach."

On the topics of Luis Suarez and the Champions League, Rodgers, having been stung before, shied away from any vatic statements. However, whilst not making a definitive prediction, he told the Echo recently that he was convinced the Uruguayan would lead the club's attack across the continent. The club's presence at Europe's top table was, he claimed, ample reason for the striker to remain in red and the young coach struggled to avoid a touch of hubris as he spoke of his pride in the playing style he's instilled.

"The last conversation I had with Luis we spoke a lot and I know he is very happy here," Rodgers insisted. "He has had a marvellous season,. He has picked up all the awards - ones that were very important to him from his peers. He’s contributed massively to our success this season and he is happy in the Premier League. He has turned a corner in terms of how he’s perceived in England. Of course in football you can’t promise anything but I am confident Luis will be a big part of the future here.

"Whether it’s Luis or any other player, there is no excuse (for wanting to leave) now," Rodgers added. "We are one of the biggest clubs in the world - one of the great institutions in modern football. The Champions League was what we were all fighting for. It’s a wonderful platform for all the players and that opportunity is there now. We are playing at the highest level. We’re at the leading edge of the game playing a really exciting philosophy of football that people are looking at and admiring both at home and abroad. We’re a club that’s really ambitious to succeed. It’s a wonderful environment. We’re going to extend the stadium. All the ingredients are there. We hope to continue with that over the coming years."

With the future of the club in the capable clutches of Rodgers and the attack hopefully being led by the uncanny talents of Luis Suarez, fans can realistically hope to see the manager's "philosophy" being imposed on Europe's finest in the campaign to come. It is indeed, "a wonderful platform."

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