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08th Nov 2014

Gary Neville defends Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers – the apocalypse is near

While everyone around him criticised his team selection, Brendan Rodgers finds a kind word in the most unlikely of places

Darragh Murphy

Gary Neville is the last person you’d expect to give his backing to an under fire Liverpool manager.  Is the former United captain growing up and getting soft on us? Let’s hope not.

Neville has come out in defence of Brendan Rodgers in his column for The Telegraph today, claiming that the Kop boss deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt for his decision to leave so many first team players on the bench for Liverpool’s trip to Madrid this week.

Neville said: “Let’s be fair and sensible about Brendan Rodgers. No manager should have to go from being the most exciting young coach in the league six months ago to being told he does not know what he’s doing today.

“This is a manager who has been placed in these high-pressure situations for the first time, and has taken a gamble, based on sound reasoning, only to be accused of violating the club’s traditions. We should be lauding him in this early stage of his top-level career for raising the bar for Liverpool in the first place with their second-place Premier League finish in May.”

Liverpool v Hull City - Premier League

The Sky Sports’ commentator/pundit has first-hand experience at being left out for certain games and he explains how his manager, Alex Ferguson, let the players know about being rested.

He remembered: “The furore took me back to when I was playing – especially in my later years – and the standing joke among some of the older ones. where one, or sometimes a few of us, would be left out almost every week.

“The manager’s policy on rotation was always that every single player would have the situation explained to him, partly to get him to buy into the wider strategy.”

Naivety is a key issue that Neville raises in his column as he hammers home the importance for Liverpool to play with maturity this weekend and he points to last season’s fixture with Chelsea at Anfield and the home game with Real Madrid as examples of Liverpool’s naive state of mind.

Neville does offer hope for Liverpool though as he goes on to praise Rodgers’ ability to adapt.

He said: “Last April, when they were going for the title, there was this belief that they could roll over everybody, destroy everybody. Chelsea did a job on them.

“In the home game against Real Madrid there was a drop in physical intensity after 20 minutes, where they tried to go punch for punch with Madrid. I think Rodgers felt that was the moment Liverpool had to change, and in these last two games we have seen him reacting to circumstance, to make the team more solid”

Neville’s final point is a contemplative one as he wonders about the potential for British managers to reach the highest level in the modern football era in England.

He muses:”If every time there is a rough patch a young manager is battered, how are we ever going to reach the point where a British coach can match a Mourinho or an Ancelotti?”

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