Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers ready for Bill Shankly turn of his own
Rodgers' struggles reflect those of his most famous predecessor
Brendan Rodgers' fascination with Bill Shankly is a genuine one. He has watched many of the videos, read the books and was listening only last week to one of those stories, possibly apocryphal, about his predecessor diagnosing the low-slung sports car of one of his Liverpool players as the cause of a calf injury.
The biographies will serve the current Liverpool manager well heading into this weekend, given that Shankly's early experiences at Anfield – struggling to turn the club around and to persuade the board to spend on good players – reflect his own. Rodgers has not required anyone to talk him out of quitting – something Matt Busby did for Shankly – but six months into his tenure, the challenge of making progress is not easy. Defeat tomorrow at Queen's Park Rangers will make Rodgers' record worse than Roy Hodgson in his equivalent period at the Anfield helm. He was gone by FA Cup third round weekend.
There is no such threat for Rodgers. He does hear the 'Dalglish' chants at Anfield, though that ghost of ages past is celebrated for what he has done, not what he might yet do, these days. Yet Rodgers acknowledged that the inconsistencies which create top-four talk one week followed by a sense of desperation the next keep this side some distance from their aims.
"To play for a club like this there are certain requirements that you need and they're not all just technical," Rodgers said. "You can't have a good game at Liverpool Football Club and then three days later have a poor game. This is every game of your life, this is Liverpool."
Liverpool lack a ruthless, domineering streak and after the collective lack of character displayed by his players in the midweek 3-1 humbling away to Stoke, the manager also admitted yesterday that he still does not entirely know what he will get from them from one week to the next.
"That's always in the back of your mind," Rodgers said. "There will be games you will go into as a manager and think you always have that little question mark of I wonder 'what am I going to get'? Sometimes you don't know. But hopefully over time if you have a group who are stable and consistent, then there comes a point when you know what you're going to get. At times they will drift away from that because it's natural, that's life. But you will know once you've got that what you're going to get."
What he must get is some experienced professionals to work around the young players who have been called upon since the summer transfer window left Rodgers bereft of anyone to replace Andy Carroll.
"If you look at the top end of our pitch, Luis Suarez, who has been brilliant, has for most of the season, bless him, been surrounded by young players," he said. "They are up-and-coming young players, but those positions are the positions that make the difference. Jonjo Shelvey has played in the number 10 role a lot in this year, and he is 20. Raheem [Sterling] has just turned 18. Suso is 19. It's a big ask for young players to carry that can."
There is confidence, too, that Daniel Sturridge will soon be in that mix, despite the latest hitch over the sell-on fee due from Chelsea to Manchester City.
Shankly changed the course of history by persuading his board to sign Ron Yeats and Ian St John in 1961, after which he challenged the Liverpool board to "sack me if they can't play." That kind of offer would be too risky for Rodgers but few Premier League managers face a more significant January than him.
Like for like: Rodgers and Roy
* Brendan Rodgers has enjoyed a mixed start to his Liverpool career, going out of the League Cup at home to Swansea while sitting 10th in the Premier League at the halfway point, 25 points off the summit. Roy Hodgson also took 25 points from his first 19 games in charge, in 2010-11, but sat just 16 points off the top. His side, however, exited the League Cup a round earlier, losing on penalties at home to Northampton, and he was sacked before the FA Cup third round.
* Hodgson's first 19 league games
W7 D4 L8 F23 A24 Pts25 Pos 9th
* Rodgers' first 19 league games
W6 D7 L6 F28 A26 Pts25 Pos 10th
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