Brendan Rodgers returns to Stoke on Sunday, acknowledging that his previous visit there on the final day of last season was his worst experience in football.
Liverpool’s manager conceded the crushing 6-1 defeat in Steven Gerrard’s send-off game has undermined his position amongst the club’s supporters. Rodgers remains insistent, though, that his sacking was not on the agenda when he met with Mike Gordon, who essentially runs the club, ahead of Liverpool’s end of season review in May.
In terms of Liverpool’s fan base, however, Rodgers realises he is back where he started three seasons ago: at year zero.
“I need to regain their trust again,” he admitted yesterday. “It has been an incredible journey since I came in here and it is an absolute privilege to manage this club with the supporters we have behind us. But of course you have to do well to earn that support and I need to earn that again.”
Rodgers has since received sturdy backing from Fenway Sports Group, with Gordon sanctioning the purchase of four players of proven Premier League quality, including Christian Benteke at Rodgers’s request.
In releasing Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh, Rodgers was also allowed to dispense with two of his backroom staff, while Melwood, the club’s training ground, was renovated on his say so. A replica of the European Cup positioned in the foyer now stands on a 15-foot plinth, as if something high up to aspire to.
“I repeat, the club has given me incredible backing in my time here,” he added. “There have been a lot of changes on and off the field. We’ve spent a lot of money refurbishing the facilities here at Melwood, which is something I was very keen to do. We’ve spent a lot of money on two new pitches outside here and the club has again backed me on players in terms of where I wanted to improve.”
Removing his friend Pascoe from his role as assistant as well as first team coach Marsh – a former Liverpool midfielder, was described as a tough “moral and professional decision”.
“It was difficult, probably the most difficult decision I have ever had to make as a manager, but I felt I had to do it,” Rodgers said. “I’ve explained the reasons why – technically I wanted to take the team in a different direction. That was no detriment to the guys who left, guys who had worked with me fantastically well and were with me when we came within a game of winning the league.”
Liverpool injuries and suspensions
Liverpool injuries and suspensions
1/6 Danny Ings (forward)
Ruptured knee ligaments in his first training session under Jurgen Klopp. Expected to be out for the rest of the season.
2/6 Joe Gomez (defender)
Sustained cruciate knee ligament damage while on duty for Gareth Southgate's England Under-21s. Expected to be out for the rest of the season.
3/6 Roberto Firmino (forward)
Cracked a bone in his back against Carlisle United in the Capital One Cup. Expected to be out until late October
4/6 Christian Benteke (striker)
Picked up a hamstring injury in the home draw against Norwich City. Expected to return to first-team action in late October.
5/6 Jordan Henderson (midfielder)
Broke a bone in his right foot in training during his recovery from an earlier injury picked up against Bournemouth. Liverpool's captain is expected to return to first team action in December.
6/6 Jon Flanagan (defender)
Missed all of last season with a knee injury and continues to be out - it's hoped the young defender will return before the end of the year.
Rodgers had planned to have a meal with his son Anton after the match at Stoke City last time out but decided to cancel after such a chastening experience. He has since forced himself to watch a video of the encounter.
“It was very difficult to sit through,” Rodgers said. “The identity of what you stand for, in terms of organisation and commitment and fight – forget quality, forget talent as that is irrelevant – you have got to be able to fight and you have to be hard to beat.
“You have to do the basics well. All those elements of football, we failed in. It was a surreal experience, if I am honest. I am sure the supporters – rightly so – were absolutely devastated by that result. It makes us even more determined to put it right.”
Midfielder Joe Allen has been ruled out of action for three to four weeks by a hamstring injury.