BRENDAN RODGERS walked out onto the Anfield turf with the Kop empty and laying dormant for the summer. It will remain that way for another two months but already the new Liverpool manager is imagining it brimming with passion and bursting with expectancy.
His appointment as Kenny Dalglish’s successor will have already stirred those emotions in some though the Northern Irishman is aware that sections of supporters hold reservations.
Rodgers did not use his first public appearance as manager to court the Liverpool fans or try to butter them up.
Instead the 39-year-old announced a call to arms; a war cry for the new era, if you like.
Rodgers’ footballing principles are a major reason why the Reds’ American owners, Fenway Sports Group, paid Swansea City hefty compensation to prise him from his contract at the Liberty Stadium.
The south Wales side played with style, fluidity and the confidence which so often deserts newly promoted sides.
But for all Rodgers’ study of tactics and techniques and years spent on the training ground, he says a force beyond the parameters of the pitch will be vital to Liverpool’s future success.
As a member of the opposition, Rodgers has felt the warmth of the Reds’ fans but too their ability to summon extra from the troops.
If Liverpool in the new era are to squeeze the life and soul out of teams coming to Anfield then he says the supporters need to get in on the act.
Swansea were applauded by the Liverpool faithful following November’s 0-0 draw but it was Chelsea’s suffocation in the cauldron of the 2007 Champions League semi-final which resonates with Rodgers.
“With Chelsea in the Champions League the players said they had never experienced support like that,” he said.
“That was ultimately what won the game and that is what I want to do here. I want to use the incredible support to make coming to Anfield the longest 90 minutes of an opponent’s life. That’s the idea.
“I want to see this great attacking football with creativity and imagination, with relentless pressing of the ball. I know what it’s like because I had a team like that at Swansea.
“That was with a terrific little club and a terrific group of players. When people came to Swansea it was probably the longest 90 minutes of their life. So after 10 minutes when they hadn’t had a touch of the ball they are looking at the clock and seeing only ten minutes had gone. It’s a long afternoon.
“Now we have one of the most passionate sets of supporters in the world. So my experiences here are passion and support and those are the things that stick out. When I came here as a manager with Swansea it was a real proud moment and to play well and grow in the game and then get a standing ovation meant a lot because these are educated supporters and they understand football. So it was a great honour.”
Rodgers admits that to bring his thinking to life with Liverpool he will have to make signings this summer, though stressed that wholesale changes were not on the agenda.
Any hope of a swift raid of his old club has been knocked down with an agreement with Swansea that for 12 months at least, they will be free from Rodgers cherry picking their best players.
The former Watford and Reading boss has targets in mind, but that’s just where they are to stay for the time being and was keen to stress that a lot of quality resides in the current Liverpool squad.
“It’s not starting from scratch but tweaking,” he said.
“The reality is that this is a club where I need to align the playing group with the supporters.
“There is an imbalance at the minute. You’ve got some of the world’s best supporters here and the playing group is not quite at that level yet.
“You’ve got some wonderful players here, some wonderful talent, but the work over the next number of years is to see if we can get that aligned with where it has been for many years.
“The reality is that, right now, it’s not. I’m not going to sit here and bluff and say anything other than what I believe to be the truth.
“What excites me is the motivation to get that level back up again and that is why I came here. That’s what brought me here.”
“There are some big talented players here but there is no doubt that to get the team to play how I want to play I’ll need to bring in other players,” he said.
“No question. To play the offensive, attacking football we did at Swansea we had to make changes in terms of recruitment.
“In terms of the core group here there is some brilliant talent. I work closely with players.
“My natural environment is on the training field so I am there every day, I coach, and I can make a promise that I will improve players.
“Hopefully that will continue and get effective results.
“Obviously I have a philosophy in terms of where I want to get to but that won’t happen on the first day.
“This is a club that is historic for the identity, style and DNA of its football.
“They are an educated group of supporters at this club and, okay there might be watered down versions of the style of play, but you can’t come to Liverpool Football Club and play a direct game of football, lumping-it-style.
“It is going to take a bit of time.”