Brendan Rodgers: 'I was a nobody when I started to work for Jose Mourinho'

 

Football Correspondent

“I was used to standing at the back of his press conferences for a few years and learning how he dealt with the media,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said of Jose Mourinho, the man to whom he insists he owes everything in football. “Obviously he was a lot better than me…”

The smiles that broke out across Rodgers’ audience as he related this story revealed that the Northern Irishman learned a thing or two from one of the greatest charmers of them all, with whom he worked for three years as Chelsea’s head youth coach from September 2004. Rodgers’ immaculate preparations for occasions such as this include the command of small detail, possession of the anecdote or sound bite – the Mourinho style incarnate– and even the parade of a modesty which the Portuguese is not always so tutored in.

“I was a 30-year-old nobody who worked in youth development when I was assigned to come in to work with him,” Rodgers related, ahead of his first encounter with Mourinho tomorrow. “We hit it off straight away. I think at the time I was preparing that one day I would be a manager. I was clever enough to learn from top operators. From that moment in time, he gave me the confidence and self-esteem that has prepared me for the role I am in today.”

The parallels run into their man-management styles. Rodgers learned from Mourinho the value of understanding and tapping into the small details of his players’ lives, to help engender huge loyalty from them. He also displayed a Mourinho-esque knowledge of how to challenge officialdom when questioning the decision to allow a Greater Manchester referee, Lee Mason, to handle Thursday night’s defeat to an east Manchester team at the Etihad Stadium.

Rodgers, who said yesterday that this was not intended as an attack on Mason’s integrity, has received communication from the Football Association, asking him to explain his comments by Thursday. A fine is the most extreme punishment he will receive, though even that seems unlikely.

But the Rodgers/Mourinho parallels end there. It was when the Liverpool manager’s praise for Mourinho – “the emotion when I speak about Jose is one of friendship” – had stopped flowing that he put his finger on the critical difference between his squad and the one commanded by the man 10 years his senior. Mourinho, like Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, could change all 11 players in his squad and do well, while injuries and the ineligibility of Chelsea loanee Victor Moses leave Rodgers with a mere 16 players to pick from tomorrow at Stamford Bridge.

The FA has asked Brendan Rodgers to explain his comments about referee Lee Mason, pictured, on Boxing Day The FA has asked Brendan Rodgers to explain his comments about referee Lee Mason, pictured, on Boxing Day (Getty)
Mourinho may be struggling to get Chelsea playing his way with quite the same rapidity that we saw in that autumn of 2004. Pellegrini’s City may be showing the defensive flaws which could make the first five months of 2014 challenging, with many of the big clubs to be played away from the Etihad. But Liverpool are the club with a midfield and defence which look most limited in resources.

Defeat to City revealed them to be a side capable of staring anyone in the eye, but the suspicion remains that they will yo-yo a little in the weeks through to May. “We are fluctuating,” Rodgers admitted. “That’s the way it will be until the end of the season. One day you’re first; one day you’re fourth.”

Thursday at the Etihad also left us none the wiser as to whether Liverpool are capable of holding out to win against the teams they are fighting for a top-four place with. The picture created by the wins over Manchester United and Tottenham – both struggling  when defeated – is scrambled by the 2-0 defeat at Arsenal, which is why a victory tomorrow would carry huge psychological significance. The triumph at Tottenham left Liverpool’s players walking tall in training. The effect of a win at Stamford Bridge would be even greater.

Liverpool possess “an aggression, charisma and greater confidence and belief in the way we are working,” Rodgers said, with an articulate description reminiscent of Mourinho. We are about to find if he has watched his Svengali assiduously enough to deliver on a fraction of his budget.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific