Last season, Liverpool had a decent run of games from around January to March. Book ending that, though, were some truly dismal performances that caused many fans to lose faith in manager Brendan Rodgers. His team selection came under scrutiny, particularly his predilection towards playing otherwise competent players out of position, and his insistence on starting Dejan Lovren long after the center back had proven himself not up to the task. By the time the season ended with that waking nightmare away to Stoke, even the most stalwart Rodgers supporters had their doubts. But the manager realizes that he has a long way to go in order to earn back the goodwill of the Liverpool supporters.
"I never take for granted the support I have had here," Rodgers said. "I also understand the disappointment of last year. I'm sure after a game like Stoke there was huge disappointment. Of course I have always been the one to take responsibility and rightly so. The anger goes towards the manager and I accept that. Yes, I need to regain their trust again. It has been an incredible journey since I came in here and it is an absolute privilege to manage this club and have the supporters behind us. But of course you have to do well to earn that support. And I know I need to earn that again."
The owners have put their support behind Rodgers, in word as well as deed. They've brought in several new signings at top dollar. If deployed correctly, these players - such as Roberto Firmino, Nathaniel Clyne, Christian Benteke, and newly-appointed vice-captain, James Milner - could go a long way towards helping Rodgers regain that lost faith.
"The owners have given me great trust since I have been in here and in the main I have had a great response from the players," Rodgers continued. "At the end of the Stoke game, it closed off what was a disappointing season. I suppose it is how you judge, really. If you look at my second season here, we nearly won the league. If you judge me on that, maybe I deserve a bit more time. If you judge me on budget, we are in the top five, and we finished sixth and we end up disappointed. Maybe it might be different."
It's heartening to see that Rodgers understands the precarious position he's found himself in, despite the owners' continued support. At this point, the 2013-2014 is only a bittersweet memory in the hearts of the Liverpool faithful, and what goodwill he garnered from that incredible title challenge has been long since used up. The fans have had their tra-la-la-la-las beaten out of them, and it's the job of Rodgers and his team to give the Kop something new to sing about.
Rumors surfacing that Rodgers once again intends to make Dejan Lovren his starting left center back ahead of Mamadou Sakho have some fans uneasy before a single ball has been kicked. That, plus the fact that yet another transfer window under Rodgers has nearly ended without seeing the club bring in a defensive midfield player, seems to imply that some lessons regarding the team's shaky defense have yet to be learned.
Still, the season hasn't started, and making hasty judgments without all of the facts is unfair to Rodgers and the team. While it's true that trust has been lost by many of the Liverpool faithful, it's safe to say that they would all love to be proven wrong. Sunday's game against Stoke is the first step towards healing the relationship between manager and fans. For those ninety minutes after the whistle blows, Rodgers, the players, and the fans will all be on the same side. Hopefully by the end, Liverpool will have exorcised some of last season's demons, and Rodgers can go about proving that he has what it takes to move the team forward.