Liverpool FC manager Brendan Rodgers
BRENDAN RODGERS had barely got his feet under the table at his Melwood desk when an enquiry from one hopeful supporter underlined both the size of the task and the weight of expectation he had taken on by moving to Anfield.
The question was simple: are Liverpool going to win the league this year?
Rodgers’ incredulity when recalling the anecdote suggested that while some fans were, perhaps wilfully, ignoring the sheer volume of work and time needed to drag the team back towards the top of the table, the Northern Irishman was under no illusions.
More than four months later, the harsh facts of Liverpool’s predicament have surely delivered a reality to check to even the most heroically-optimistic supporter.
From the outset, Rodgers has been fighting fires while attempting to transform the fortunes of the club while implementing his much-vaunted philosophy on the squad.
The 3-0 drubbing at West Bromwich Albion set the tone, Liverpool’s worst opening-day defeat in 75 years and one of several unenviable records the current vintage have managed to attain during a difficult first half to the season.
On his arrival, Rodgers handed over a 180-page dossier to Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports Group mapping out the future path for the club.
Not exactly something you can skim read. And the need to digest those changes contributed to a sluggish start that left the Anfield outfit waiting until their sixth outing at Norwich City for their first league win of the campaign.
Rodgers admittedly was not helped by a trio of opening home league games that saw Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United visit; Liverpool’s return of one point from nine highlighting many of the problems that did for Kenny Dalglish remain, most notably an inability to turn possession into goals and a continued aversion to Anfield.
Perhaps that’s not surprising given that by inheriting a small squad, Rodgers has been left reliant on players who, by his own actions, suggest he would rather see elsewhere.
Attempts to erase the costly Dalglish-Damien Comolli era have seen Charlie Adam and Carroll depart, with Jordan Henderson offered to Fulham and Stewart Downing told he can find another club.
Downing and Henderson have in recent weeks become increasingly regular performers along with Jose Enrique, although all three had initially been shouldered out of first-team contention by a trio of youngsters.
Rodgers’ previous work as an Academy coach has given him the confidence to throw youngsters into the fray and, of the glut of starlets given an opportunity this season, Andre Wisdom, Suso and, most prominently, Raheem Sterling have all seized the moment, while Jonjo Shelvey continues to blossom.