LIVERPOOL is already in Brendan Rodgers’ blood. It has been for several generations.
A proud son of County Monaghan, the new Liverpool manager revealed yesterday that his dad Malachy and his grandfather were both devoted Reds fans, while his former chairman at Swansea also grew up with a passion for the Liver Bird.
It meant that the young Brendan grew up with tales of Liddell and Keegan, Sir Roger and Big Ron – and he understood from the word go what Liverpool Football Club means to its fans.
“This is the heartland of football folklore really,” he explained. “If you go back in the history of this club it starts way back.
“You have Toshack, St John, right the way through to Dalglish, Rush, Lawrenson and Hansen. “You look at the management as well, Shankly and Paisley, and modern greats like Gerrard and Carragher.
“The history of this club and the worldwide standing, the opportunity to manage a great club and inspire the city was too great for me to turn down.
“I understand the frustrations too.
“There’s my family, too. My grandfather and my dad, bless him he’s not here, they were both big Liverpool supporters so today is a proud day.”
Of course it’s easy for new arrivals to pledge allegiance to a football club.
Robbie Keane, at last count, pledged boyhood allegiance to Liverpool, Celtic and LA Galaxy – but in Rodgers’ case he wasn’t claiming to have supported the club, just to understand it – and that was something one of his more recent predecessors singularly failed to achieve.
Roy Hodgson’s connection to this city was purely by matrimony – and the England coach admitted this week that he perhaps doesn’t listen to his wife as much as he should do.
Early in his managerial career at Anfield he was handed the kind of open goal Ronny Rosenthal could hardly have spurned, or Fernando Torres down at the Stretford End, say.
“Can you imagine anywhere better than Anfield, with the Kop in full cry, on a day like today?” he was asked.
Hodgson fluffed it.
He stroked his chin, he pondered hard, then he said “Well, the San Siro maybe, or Old Trafford of course. But it’s certainly up there.”
Brendan Rodgers has only experienced Anfield from the visitors’ dug-out or the Main Stand, but he has already spoken more reverentially of a footballing cathedral than his predecessor but one.
“Yes, I’ve thought about walking out here,” he said, the slightly faraway look in his eye betraying that the notion was not one which worried him.
“You run the movie in your mind. It’s a special place.
“This is a wonderful arena for football. The tradition and the history. I had a walk around the outside of the pitch there on my own this morning just to get a sense of the surroundings.
“It’s not something that intimidates me. It certainly excites me.
“ I’ve a belief in what I do, an inherent belief in how I work and I’ll fight for my life to get Liverpool back on track.
“Guys like Kenny Dalglish and the people before me were incredible men and that door will always be open for guys like that to come in. It’s my job now to continue that work.”
It’s the kind of ardour, the kind of passion, the naked intensity Liverpool fans need to hear from their leaders.
“I’m Irish and that’s why I think I’ll be okay in this city,” added Rodgers. “I work with passion, football is my life. Swansea is a passionate city where they love their club and that’s the same reason I came here.
“They are wonderful supporters and I will throw my life into this city and the club to represent it the best I possibly can on and off the field and I think it’s a real hand and glove fit here.”
It’s a remarkable statistic that only three Northern Irishmen have ever pulled on the Red jersey previously – and one of them perhaps appropriately wore green.
Elisha Scott was one of Anfield’s greatest ever goalkeepers, Jim Magilton was an Anfield trainee who didn’t quite make the breakthrough, while striker Sam English scored 26 goals in 50 appearances in the 1930s but has been largely airbrushed from the club’s history.
The traditions and history of the club are something Rodgers is already acutely aware of.
He spoke of the influence Ulsterman John McKenna had on the club during its formative years, and he admitted: “The attraction first and foremost was the history.”
He went on: “I think that what we need to do here is to align the playing side with the supporters. There’s an imbalance. The supporters never change. They’re up there with the best in the world.
“But the team’s not there at the moment so what we need to do is to improve the team and improve the quality of the team and hopefully over the next couple of years we’ll be ready to challenge and ready to compete.
“And that’s the excitement and that’s the challenge.”
Rodgers has already passed his first challenge with flying colours. He has forged a connection with the Liverpool supporters.
Time will tell whether he can win their undying support, but he admits it won’t be for want of trying.
“I have conditions to work under. I create a framework that players come in and adhere to.
“But for me players have an obligation to work hard. It’s not a choice. We all work hard in our lives every single day and players are no different.
“It’s quite simple. You come in and you do a hard day’s work. You come in and you maximise your effort.
“You make sure every day in training and after every match you come in and take your top off and you can wring it out because it’s soaking wet.
“It’s that honesty that you want.
“If you can work hard and you’ve got talent, it takes you a long way. That will be the emphasis for me here, to reinforce that and try and make sure that commitment to the cause is important, because we have a cause to fight for here.”