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07th Nov 2014

Jason McAteer talks about the resting players ‘controversy’ and Liverpool’s clash with Chelsea

I’ve been dropped and it can affect your confidence big time

Jason McAteer

Brendan Rodgers has gotten a lot of flack this week for his decision to rest a number of first-team players for Liverpool’s game against Real Madrid.

I think Brendan went into the game with his eyes wide open and I think that people are getting a little bit carried away because of Liverpool’s form. The team selection gave an easy target for the doubters, the media and everyone who wanted to jump on the bandwagon to criticise the side. Brendan went to Madrid to face the best team in the world; a team that had gone 11 games unbeaten, scoring 54 goals in the process. And after Liverpool were beaten so easily at home against them you can understand his selection.

Liverpool were never expected to go on and win this group. Real Madrid were always expected to qualify in first place and Liverpool would fight it out with Basel and Ludogorets for second. That made the games against Real Madrid something of a non-event which forced Brendan’s hand to think of his priorities, and his priorities are obviously the game against Chelsea and the four games after that.

He’s given himself every chance of picking the strongest team available for the Chelsea game – Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Mario Balotelli were all rested on Tuesday and now they’re all fresh and ready to go this weekend. People get caught up with the young players and whether or not they can play three times a week and I’m sure they could at this stage of the season. But Brendan will be looking for these players to be fresh in the last six weeks of the season when everything’s to play for. That’s when he needs his players the most. If they’re playing well then everyone will look back and say “the manager was right not to let that lad play three times a week in November.”

I’ve been dropped and it can affect your confidence big time. You want to be first name on the teamsheet and playing week in, week out. It’s different nowadays, because clubs are so adept at rotation. It’s about a squad now, not just an eleven on the pitch. I think if a manager drops you, but is honest and up-front about it, then it’s up to you prove him wrong by playing hard. Whatever happens, the most important thing is to conduct yourself in a professional way. But that’s only if a manager is being fair.

If a manager is being unfair, based more on personal reasons than professional, then I think a player is well within his rights to ask for a transfer if he feels like he’s not going to be given a fair chance. That’s what happened with Graeme [Souness] and I at Blackburn. We had a falling out, a clash of personalities and I never felt that it was a professional decision for him not to play me. I always thought it was personal. I decided it was time for me to move on with my career playing for Ireland and in my domestic career. So I moved and started enjoying my football again at Sunderland. Enjoying your game is what’s important.

Gerrard was also rested against Madrid, but I think he still plays a vital part for Liverpool. His leadership qualities, and the presence that he has in the dressing room, certainly helps Brendan with his young team. I think Steven is having a harder time of it this season. Opposing teams are prepared for Liverpool’s style of play and they’re looking to stifle the delivery forward which comes from Steven. He’s been forced to come deep for the ball but I would say his best position is at the point of the diamond.

I think the game against Chelsea on Saturday will be very similar to that fixture last season. Liverpool are still searching for that spark, that little bit of cohesion among the players but it is at Anfield. With Chelsea being so formidable this season there will be no pressure on Liverpool to get the three points. Brendan will have his side out to attack, playing their normal game like they did last season at Anfield and I think that Chelsea will come quite defensive but be the more clinical again.

It’s not been the best start to the season for Liverpool but, when times are tough, you look at your players for character. Brendan is probably finding out now how difficult a job he has in front of him.

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