Tim Sherwood insists Liverpool are lucky to have under-fire manager Brendan Rodgers — and he could have managed Real Madrid.
The Aston Villa chief has defended Rodgers amid growing pressure on the Anfield boss following their poor start.
Villa go to Merseyside today looking to pile the misery on Rodgers who has seen his side earn just eight points from six games to sit seven points off the top of the Premier League.
Rodgers took Liverpool to second in the league in 2014 and has vowed to fight for his Anfield future with the club denying Carlo Ancelotti had been approached about the possibility of taking over — Jurgen Klopp has also been linked with the job.
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Sherwood, though, believes Rodgers remains a top manager. “After that season they finished second, if they’d won the league, could they have kept hold of Brendan Rodgers?
“They would have tried everything — and they did, he signed a new contract after that.
“All of a sudden he doesn’t turn into a bad manager, it’s fine margins. We might have seen him at Real Madrid.
“Why wouldn’t we have seen him there? He’d have won the English Premier League with a team who hasn’t won it for God knows how many years. He would have been the hottest property in football. A week is a long time in this game, let alone a year. Because they got so close it intensifies the pressure. He’s paying the price for overachieving a couple of seasons ago.”
For his part, Rodgers admits he is never complacent enough to think his job is safe but insists he is driven on by the “positive fear” it might not be.
The Antrim man has found himself under increased scrutiny this week after a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Norwich was followed by them scraping past League Two Carlisle on penalties at Anfield in the Capital One Cup.
But he came out fighting yesterday. Asked whether his job was under threat, he said: “I’ve never complacent enough to think that it’s never been. That’s what drives a manager on — that fear, positive fear.
“But it doesn’t frighten me. I’ve got an inherent belief in what I do but I don’t shy away from the fact that you need to get results and be performing well to try and stay and work.
“I don’t think [the pressure] goes away unless you’re winning games but I know that we’ve created that expectancy because of how we’ve worked.
“How do I block it out? It’s very simple. I hope to be a football manager for another 20-odd years and I suspect that those 20 won’t be at Liverpool, but whilst I’m here I want to fight for the players and the club.”
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Owners Fenway Sports Group stood by Rodgers in the summer despite a dreadful end to the campaign which culminated in 6-1 defeat at Stoke on the final day of the season.
Despite taking just five points from their last six matches, plus enduring a dismal FA Cup semi-final exit to a struggling Villa side, the Americans backed their manager, albeit it with some tweaks.
After what was described as a “robust” annual end-of-season review Rodgers kept his job but was forced to accept changes to the coaching staff. Assistant manager and close friend Colin Pascoe and first-team coach and former player Mike Marsh left in a shake-up which brought in England U19s boss Sean O’Driscoll and ex-Reds midfielder Gary McAllister.
FSG also supported Rodgers in the transfer window with an outlay of £80m (€108.5m), much of which was recouped from the sale of Raheem Sterling to Manchester City for £49m.
The Americans have been more patient than some owners may have been but Rodgers knows that could change at any minute. “I have regular contact with the owners and the relationship has always been strong,” he added.
“Whatever happens here, whether I’m here for one day, one month, one year, whatever, I’ll always have a huge respect for the owners here and the people that work here.
“I walked in here three years ago as a 39-year-old manager at one of the greatest football clubs in the world and I’m a better manager now for that.
“My time here has been enjoyable and I hope it continues to be that. I hope to be here for a long time.”
As if speculation about his job was not enough, injuries have given Rodgers something else to worry about. Christian Benteke (hamstring) and Dejan Lovren (ligament injury) are likely to be sidelined for a while. Roberto Firmino will have a scan to ascertain whether he has fractured a bone in his back after coming off against Carlisle.
“Benteke will probably be out for a little bit of time,” said Rodgers. “Young Firmino landed awkwardly and may have cracked a bone in his back and Dejan Lovren will be out for a few weeks with a ligament injury.”
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