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R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Take Care, TCB

Amidst all the posturing and counter posturing, Brendan Rodgers has zeroed-in on one concept all football fans can relate to. As Luis Suarez squirms and wriggles in his attempts to evade his hellish captivity at Liverpool Football Club, the manager has admonished him for his lack of respect.

Caption is redundant -- JUST LOOK AT THE FACES.
Caption is redundant -- JUST LOOK AT THE FACES.
Scott Barbour

Saintly child that I was, I rarely transgressed the established standards of behaviour in our small country domicile but when I did, my father would adopt an utterly disdainful grimace and tell me to "have a bit o' manners." His disapproval and patent disgust was all that was required to send me into paroxysms of guilt and remorse.

You see, it was a respect thing. He felt I had disrespected his code and my fierce respect for him made his opprobrium the worst possible punishment. It was a simple time and a simple philosophy, based on mutual respect for something greater than an individual -- the family.

Recently, Liverpool supporters have had ample opportunity to indulge in a little smugness over the clearly massive global appeal of their club. As more than ninety thousand fans sang 'You'll Never Walk Alone' in Melbourne, only the most bitter of misanthropes could fail to have been impressed by the reach of Liverpool Football Club and the scale of what some call the Liverpool 'family.'

I've never been mad about the term. Folk on Twitter make regular use of the #LFCFamily tag in an attempt to grow their following whilst reaching out to like-minded sorts; but forty years of living in an often dystopian world can twist one's gut into a cynical knot and I have enough trouble maintaining cordial relations with my own relatives without trying to grasp the ethereal concept of my membership of a worldwide tribe.

With his comments about the importance of respect for the club and his praise of Daniel Agger's loyalty, Brendan Rodgers is is deliberately pushing certain buttons on the console that controls the collective mindset of Liverpool fans. His censure of Luis Suarez is thoroughly justified and notable for the use of language which is evocative and emotionally manipulative.

This is no criticism of the manager. Rather, I applaud the Northern Irishman's evolution from cod-psychologist into a far more statesman-like being. It is his responsibility to provide strong guidance and leadership in the all-too-recurrent times of difficulty. Rodgers has been doing exactly that since the discussion about Suarez's potential defection began in May.

Some have griped on message boards and comment threads across the internet, irked by the manager speaking publicly about the whole sordid mess, but that is a curmudgeonly attitude born out of an old-fashioned concept about the airing of dirty linen. No, Rodgers must stay ahead of the curve on this and Suarez, ably guided by Pere Guardiola, has used every weapon at his disposal to force his way out of Anfield. His latest gambit has been to insist that promises made to him were broken -- he insists that the club agreed he could leave were Liverpool to miss out on Champions League football. Needless to say, the manager was unequivocal in his denial of any such arrangements.

"My job is to fight and protect the club" Brendan Rodgers

"There were no promises made -- categorically none -- and no promises broken," Rodgers told The Echo. "The club and his representatives had several conversations and he knew exactly where he was at. I think Luis knows the support he's had at the football club and that's something that's been unswerving throughout the whole of last season. Obviously the remarks I've read are bitterly disappointing -- but my job is bigger than that. My job is to fight and protect the club. The conversations I've had with him, he knows I've had and they will remain private. I will take strong and decisive action, absolutely. There has been a total disrespect of the club -- this is a lack of respect of a club that has given him everything. Absolutely everything."

Rodgers spoke of his disappointment for the fans who've backed the Uruguayan thoroughly, often against their better judgement, and insisted that he does not "believe" that any clause exists in the striker's contract which allows him to leave in specific circumstances or for a specific amount. The manager was careful to sound a disappointed and disillusioned note and made it clear that "the respect and dignity of the football club" was a matter of "paramount" importance.

Instead of going into detail about what exactly transpired between player and club during those contract discussions, Rodgers instead focused on how he had geared his team's style of play around Suarez and his qualities. The result, claims the manager, is that the Uruguayan's form has improved to new levels. His role, as devised by Rodgers and facilitated by his team-mates, has, according to the Liverpool boss, "made his game flourish."

The latest comments by player and manager will be a blow to those pragmatic and unemotional souls who had hoped to squeeze a final year of brilliance from Luis Suarez, even against his will. Lines have not so much been drawn in the sand as excavated. This will not end well. Rodgers has insisted that Suarez will have to apologise for his "derogatory" comments before being allowed to play for Liverpool again. "This is one of the most iconic football clubs in the world," he said. "You can't disrespect it."

As this wholly unedifying affair reaches an endgame, Rodgers must be cognisant of one thing -- righteous indignation is easy to exhibit, but utterly meaningless if he himself then fails to show respect to the fans. His previous tendencies towards bluster and disingenuous positivity-at-all-costs must remain in the past. The Liverpool manager has evoked some powerful emotions with his words, and for once those feelings are almost entirely uniform. He has galvanised the support in their shared desire for respect to be shown to a great footballing institution. Aretha would be proud.

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