Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits his future is now at the mercy of owners Fenway Sports Group after the club’s worst defeat for 52 years put him under more pressure.
The Reds boss was already under scrutiny after falling out of Champions League contention – the minimum requirement set by FSG – after eight points from eight matches before their humiliating 6-1 loss at Stoke.
But after the shambolic performance at the Britannia Stadium – where Liverpool trailed 5-0 at the break – Rodgers knows his job is on the line.
Asked if he understood the pressure was building on him the Northern Irishman said: “Yes, absolutely. I’ve always said that if the owners want me to go, then I go. It’s as simple as that.
“But I still feel I’ve got a lot to offer the club. A lot has happened this year which has made the job difficult.
“Last season, when things were working well, we had the support of everyone but performances like today do not help that and I fully understand that.”
On the back of finishing second 12 months ago Rodgers was given a new four-year contract with his stock continuing to rise.
But this campaign – aside from a three-month spell from January – has been disappointing and there is the prospect of FSG ripping up that agreement and starting again.
After clawing back a significant deficit to get within two points of the top four the Reds crumbled just when the season was reaching its critical point.
As if matters on the pitch were not bad enough, Rodgers has Raheem Sterling’s contract issue to deal with.
The 20-year-old was dropped for the first time in 18 matches at Stoke after his agent Aidy Ward said his client would not sign a new deal for even £900,000-a-week – resulting in Liverpool cancelling a meeting scheduled to reopen talks between the two parties.
Sterling was abused by large sections of the travelling support and even Stoke fans sang songs about him being greedy for turning down a £100,000-a-week contract in January.
“With Raheem, there has been a lot going over the past number of weeks, and I felt there were other players mentally positioned to play in the game,” said Rodgers.
It was not so easy to explain away the woeful performance which saw Mame Diouf (two), Jon Walters, Charlie Adam and Steven Nzonzi score in a 23-minute spell before the break.
Steven Gerrard, in his 710th and final match for the club, pulled a goal back but former Reds striker Peter Crouch added the sixth to inflict Liverpool’s worst defeat for 52 years.
“We are all embarrassed by that today,” added Rodgers. “We have to be much better than that. They (the fans) deserve an apology.
“They were angry at half time – and rightly so – because that was awful, absolutely awful. The only way you’ll get support from them is by winning games, and we haven’t won enough games.
“They have every right to be angry and frustrated and of course I take full responsibility for that as the manager.”
In contrast, Stoke boss Mark Hughes said: ”We couldn’t have asked for a better finish to a really great season. Everything came together and we showed what a good side we are.”