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A Game of Opinions

If you don't have a firmly held opinion on the management of Brendan Rodgers you are more than likely in the minority of your Liverpool-supporting peers but as the man himself hopes to start Daniel Sturridge for the first time in months, what does the future hold?

Even the normally unflappable mole-man who lived in the Anfield pitch was impressed with how Danny balanced the whole picture on his fingertips.
Even the normally unflappable mole-man who lived in the Anfield pitch was impressed with how Danny balanced the whole picture on his fingertips.
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Imagine being Brendan Rodgers. I do not entreat you, dear reader, to ponder another ill-advised, Liverpool-themed documentary but rather to consider the possibility of actually having the full Tom Hanks-in-Big experience. Envisage, for a moment, a world in which the solemnly espoused opinions of your vexed and fractious Whataspp threads held genuine significance. Picture a scenario in which the impassioned reasoning of your lunchtime contretemps about personnel and formation had any actual bearing on the club that you love. Nerve-wracking isn't it? And that's without even considering how folk will react to the preternatural gleam from your impressively enhanced dental region.

As Liverpool get ready to face Tottenham this evening, everyone's got an opinion on who should play and where they are best deployed. Emre Can must absolutely be kept in the defence or definitely moved to central midfield in the absence of Lucas Leiva. Steven Gerrard must always play in that same area of the pitch or never again appear from the start of a match in any position. Daniel Sturridge, thankfully back in the reckoning against the North Londoners, must be slowly reintroduced for the love of all that's holy or play ALL THE MINUTES, have you lost your mind? These rabidly conflicting viewpoints are held by otherwise reasonable folk who drive your train, teach your kids and process your cheques.

What a maelstrom, then, must rage in Rodgers' 42 year old mind. And yet he seems, as ever he does, to be admirably phlegmatic and mentally tranquil despite the ever-present tempest of disharmony amongst those who follow the club and carp about what they perceive to be his ineptitude. For this quiet self assurance, irrespective of one's opinion on how much it's warranted, the Liverpool boss must be admired. Certainly, there have been some occasions on which even the most even-handed of fans have been left scratching their heads but the broad sweep of recent form has becalmed much of the gnawing anxiety that many felt.

In Daniel Sturridge, Rodgers knows he has a peerless, if fragile, marksman returning to the fold. The fact that he has notched 37 strikes in 55 appearances for the Redmen is ample evidence of the Birmingham native's prowess but it is also a stinging reminder of his many absences. Rumoured line-ups for tonight's fixture feature the England man from the start and whilst the manager was clearly giving nothing away, his admiration of the forward was clear, as journalists tried to draw comparisons between Liverpool's dancing maestro and the emergent talent of Tottenham's Harry Kane.

"I’m sure Daniel is happy there’s another English striker there," the gaffer insisted. "If Harry Kane’s going to be of the level to go on and play for England  -- which I believe he is -- that helps Daniel and the other Liverpool players who play for England because it means you get another top-quality striker. But, for me, there is not anyone better than Daniel Sturridge. He’s got everything in his game if he’s playing consistently. His goalscoring record, his pace, his power -- he’s got everything and as an English striker there’s no-one better than him.

"I’m sure Daniel will look at it that there’s another young English striker coming through and that will really help him when they come together at international level," Rodgers continued. "When Daniel is on the field he gives the opponents’ defence a real problem but also he’s a natural goalscorer. He has got a big, big talent. He’s going to have to try and work his way back to fitness in games as there’s so little time in between games to train."

Quietly resplendent in the kind of snood-and training-top combo that men of his vintage can find difficult to carry off, the Carnlough man insists he is under no pressure from Fenway Sports Group, despite a comparatively wretched start to the season which saw top four ambitions seriously damaged and tamely insipid elimination from the holy grail that is the Champions League. Rodgers chatted with John Henry and Tom Werner at Melwood recently and if there was anything strained about the encounter, the manager is not revealing it.

"We had a good chat after training," the gaffer revealed. "They are on a flying visit for the game. For me it's what I want. I have never been set any targets by the owners but they know the type of manager they employed was a manager who wants to succeed. For us, (the top four) is where we want to be and, after not such a good start to the season, we are picking up. We want to continue with the momentum and that’s all we can focus on. I just continue to work."

In comparison with some of his more bombastic rhetoric, those are less than rousing words from Rodgers about the future. The last phrase, in particular, has echoes of Rafa Benitez's famous embattled press conference in the dog days of his tenure. Outside of death, taxes and Tony Pulis' ball cap, there are no certainties in life but few will credit the manager's insistence that no targets have been set by FSG and, indeed, many are of the opinion that a failure to attain Champions League football might see Rodgers unceremoniously moved on. The only reasonable time for that particular debate is surely after the final Premier League placings have been allocated, but you try telling that to your social media buddies or the guys at work.

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