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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
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

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game