‘Top English clubs may not go for Rodgers’
Walsh says Celtic manager was hard done by down south, but may struggle to make return
LIVERPOOL’S European Cup finalist Paul Walsh reckons Brendan Rodgers was harshly dealt with when he was sacked as Anfield manager.
But he concedes the man who is on course to guide Celtic to an unbeaten domestic treble is still unlikely to get another top job south of the border. Not because of lack of talent, but rather the affiliation to his old club warding off any rivals as potential suitors.
Rodgers was agonisingly close in 2014 to becoming the first Liverpool manager to win the English title since Kenny Dalglish in 1990.
The Northern Irishman’s side looked on course to pip Manchester City to the Premier League crown only for a fateful slip by Steven Gerrard against Chelsea to allow Demba Ba to score and ultimately scupper Liverpool’s title hopes.
It was a blow the Merseyside outfit never fully recovered from, with Rodgers relieved of his position only two months into the following season.
Walsh has watched on as the man who now stands in the home technical area at Parkhead has rejuvenated a beleaguered Celtic team who under his stewardship have yet to lose a domestic game and are only one match away from the Ladbrokes Premiership, and what he sees only reiterates the feeling of injustice on the man who took his old club the closest they have come to glory in a generation.
“It just shows how quickly your fortunes change in football when you consider Brendan Rodgers was one Steven Gerrard slip away from winning the English Premier League and then he was sacked six months later,” said Walsh.
“I suppose I did think it was a bit harsh at the time when he was sacked at Anfield, but before Christmas everyone was singing Jurgen Klopp’s praises and then they have a bad January and people start to criticise, ask questions and start moaning. But over a long season there are ups and downs. Liverpool’s aim would have been to be in the top four and Brendan Rodgers nearly won the title, so you could always argue it was unfair for him to be sacked.
“Football is such a cruel game at times. That one slip – not just for him but for Steven Gerrard – was cruel because they deserved to win it and the whole season turned on that one mistake. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. It’s been hard for Liverpool because they haven’t won the league for so long and, to make it worse, Manchester United have been rubbing their noses in it. So to get so close and then have the rug pulled away was absolutely heartbreaking for everyone.
“I’m sure he would have felt he could have finished the job off at Liverpool – and he possibly could have done – but things change and he’s had to move up the road and Celtic are by far and away the best side in Scotland.”
With a Betfred Cup already tucked away, the Premiership title to follow most likely in a matter of days and a William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final date with Rangers on the horizon, it is fair to say Rodgers has helped assert Celtic’s dominance on this era of Scottish football. Not to mention the fact that, barring two draws, they have won every domestic match played.
Yet Walsh, who in over 70 games for Liverpool won the league title and was part of a team that came runners-up in the 1984 Super Cup and 1985 European Cup, has his doubts over whether or not Rodgers’ magic at Parkhead will be enough to eventually persuade one of England’s superpowers to come calling.
“To be fair, he’s expected to do well at Celtic,” said the 54-year-old. “As an outsider looking in, he’s got the best players, is at the biggest club and has the biggest budget. Would anything else be acceptable other than what he’s doing?
“It’s not easy to go undefeated but he’s expected to win everything in sight and that’s what they’re doing, although I accept he’s breaking a few records along the way to make it a bit more impressive. It was always going to be difficult for him after Liverpool. Where do you get back in if you’re in the Premier League? He needed success and Celtic was a great option.
“Brendan might be waiting for a top European job. I’m not sure he’ll get a top-six English Premier League job. Maybe if, say, Southampton were bought over by wealthy overseas owners then they might fancy him to kick it on. Brendan’s problem is that once you’ve been at Liverpool then Manchester United don’t want you, Everton won’t have you. Manchester City won’t have you. You won’t get a top-six team again.
“Eddie Howe has been mentioned as a potential replacement for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal but I suppose you could argue Brendan Rodgers would possibly fit in there.
“I don’t know if he would be on Arsenal’s radar.”
RODGERS THAT: Paul Walsh (inset) reckons Rodgers is doing a good job but has his reservations about him moving on.