Luis Suarez bite: How Brendan Rodgers tried everything in his bid to win sympathy for the Liverpool striker

Manager tasked with defending a valuable asset and avoiding Kenny Dalglish errors

"This looks serious," said Brendan Rodgers with the weary humour of a condemned man catching a first glimpse of the gallows.

In front of him was a line of eight television cameras. The week before, journalists who gathered regularly in the press room at Liverpool's training ground were complaining that it was becoming increasingly difficult to get the club in the paper. The season was fizzling out on Merseyside. No longer. The bite Luis Suarez had given Branislav Ivanovic has seen to that.

It was serious. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, the most damning condemnation of Suarez had come from Graeme Souness, who when winning three European Cups with Liverpool showed he knew how to dish out the rough stuff. Souness had argued that one of the victims of the fallout might be Rodgers himself.

The aggressive, almost pointedly rude way in which Kenny Dalglish had forlornly defended Suarez against charges of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra last season had played badly with the club's American owners. "I know Kenny as well as anyone," Souness had said. "He backed Suarez right up to the hilt, who knows how much that contributed to Kenny not being here any more? This man [Rodgers] is going to have to do the exact same thing."

Liverpool's chairman Tom Werner had spoken to club executives on Sunday evening immediately after the incident and had largely left matters in the hands of the managing director, Ian Ayre. However, even in Werner's home city of Boston, Suarez was news. CNN described him as: "Hated by the English Premier League champions, chastened by the UK's Prime Minister and even lampooned by a pizza company – is Luis Suarez the No 1 enemy to English football?" Had Suarez kept his teeth to himself, Ayre would be in Australia organising a tour to promote "the Liverpool brand", an irony that was lost on nobody.

Rodgers' task was to defend Liverpool's most valuable asset, hold the club line that a 10-game ban was a cruel and unusual punishment without sounding as if he was gripped by paranoia, something not always achieved by his predecessor. Dalglish may have been warm and funny once the lights of the television cameras were switched off, but he had no interest in playing the media game and suffered for it.

Sir Alex Ferguson, a decade older, who outmanoeuvred him during the Evra affair, is altogether cuter. When it seemed Wayne Rooney was on the point of walking out of Old Trafford, Ferguson gave a Champions League press conference.

Like at Melwood, it was a grand, set-piece occasion, where nobody would ask about the match it was held to publicise. Ferguson played it beautifully. He appeared hurt, bewildered and betrayed, like a father abandoned by his son. Privately, he was probably scathing about Rooney's agent, Paul Stretford, but his performance helped shift the tide of debate firmly towards the Manchester United manager.

Rodgers would make a good preacher. He speaks in the resonant tones of an Ulster priest. He had done his research, tracking down a biting incident from a game between Stockport and Chester that led to a five-game ban and he reminded his audience of where Suarez had come from. The streets of Montevideo are unforgiving, especially when you are an incomer from the far west of Uruguay and are being brought up by a lone parent with six brothers.

"He has grown up in a country and environment where everything is about survival," Rodgers said. "People like him have been brought up to fight for their lives and win."

Simply banning him for 10 games would, Rodgers argued, do nothing to address that. Sessions with the renowned sports psychologist, Steve Peters, who is on Liverpool's payroll and who has worked effectively to curb Craig Bellamy's irrational explosions of anger, might.

However, if Rodgers and Liverpool were shocked by the length of Suarez's ban, they were betraying naïvety. Phil Thompson, who has been at the heart of the club since being part of the Anfield crowd during their epic European Cup semi-final with Internazionale in 1965, predicted "a 10-game ban at least".

On Twitter, their European Cup winning midfielder Dietmar Hamann wrote: "Suarez was always going to get six games-plus. Would it not have sent out a stronger message if the club suspended him for two weeks to show him and everybody else who plays for the club in the future what LFC is all about?"

Liverpool never considered their own ban and Rodgers admitted he had not considered any comparisons between the Suarez incident and the Eric Cantona affair. And yet both were high-profile figures who were seen to be punished not just for an outrageous piece of behaviour but for who they were. Cantona was in 1995 depicted not as the epitome of United's style but as a bully and a thug. Suarez, to quote CNN, is the "enemy of the English game".

Just as Rodgers offered Suarez psychological help, so Ferguson wondered if low blood sugar could be the cause of Cantona's excesses as all the incidents involving him came in the second half.

Cantona seriously considered quitting not just the country but the game itself. Rodgers has acknowledged Suarez will be tempted by the offer of an easier life away from Anfield. Cantona emerged a different, changed man. With Suarez nobody is quite sure.

Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
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

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution