Rodgers targets next 18 months to ‘really challenge’

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Brendan Rodgers has revealed he wants to leave a legacy at Liverpool that goes beyond just winning trophies.


Just more than half-way through his second season as Reds boss, Rodgers has guided Liverpool to second in the Premier League, and on course to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2009.

Brendan Rodgers

And whilst a return to Europe’s elite competition remains the priority, followed by winning trophies, Rodgers is keen to look after the club in the long term.

“I’ve been satisfied in terms of the progress we have made but there is still a long way to go in terms of where I want to go with the whole project,” he said.

“Hopefully it continues to grow. We have gone from a team who was looking to put a style of football in place – high energy, high tempo – to one who wants to have success running alongside that and success is getting into the Champions League.

“This first 18 months has been (about) implementing and introducing a lot of ideas which are hopefully bearing fruit and the next 18 months is about developing and enhancing that.


“Over the next 18 months we want to eventually be really challenging on the trophy front.”

Whilst Rodgers is firmly focused on success this season, he also as an eye on the future and further developing the talented young players the Reds have on their books.

Rodgers has overseen Jon Flanagan and Raheem Sterling’s breakthrough to the first team this season, and hopes plenty more will follow in their footsteps.

“There’s no point in having a youth system and an academy system in place if you’re not going to look from within,” Rodgers told LFCTV GO.

“For me and how I work, it’s part of my definition of success. When I eventually retire from football I want to be able to look back and see that not only have I won trophies but I’ve developed a football club that has brought through their own players and individuals and made them better.

“Other managers may be different and might just be about purely winning trophies but for me success isn’t just picking up the trophy at the end of the season.

“It’s also about the football club, giving the value to young players and seeing them develop.”


Hendo: Sterling was outstanding

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Jordan Henderson described Raheem Sterling’s performance upon returning for England as ‘outstanding’.

Raheem Sterling

The 19-year-old put in a man-of-the-match performance as the Three Lions beat Denmark 1-0 at Wembley last night, on what was only his second appearance for his country.

“Raheem has been fantastic for us at Liverpool and he was again,” Henderson told the Liverpool Echo afterwards.

“He was really positive and wanted to get on the ball all the time and get at players.

“Nothing fazes Raheem. He was outstanding and hopefully he can continue playing like that between now and the end of the season.”

Henderson and Sterling were joined in the England starting eleven by their Liverpool teammates Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge and Glen Johnson.

It was in fact the first time since 1977 since England have included five Liverpool players in their starting line up.


“It shows you how well we have done this season,” Henderson reflected.

“We are all working really well together and linking up brilliantly. We have to try to bring that into the England set-up as much as we can.”

For Henderson, it was a first England appearance since November last year, reflecting his superlative Liverpool form this season.

“I’m playing with a lot of confidence and I’m loving playing football at the minute,” he said.

“Things have been going well for Liverpool and to get another call up for England gave me a boost as well. Hopefully I can keep going for the rest of the season.

“It would mean everything to me to go to the World Cup and represent my country.

“First and foremost, I need to do a job for Liverpool. I’ll give my all between now and the end of the season. If I do that then I will have a good chance.”

 

Rodgers backs ‘mature’ Sterling to shine for England

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Brendan Rodgers has backed Raheem Sterling to earn a place in Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the summer’s World Cup, saying he believes the winger has matured both on and off the pitch.

Raheem Sterling

Sterling is set to line up for his country for tonight’s friendly with Denmark at Wembley, after a series of superb performances for the Reds.

The 19-year-old won his first cap under Roy Hodgson in November 2012, but has not featured for his country since after struggling for form and fitness during the back end of last season.


Sterling has since battled his way back into the Hodgson’s plans, and Rodgers believes the England boss will see a very different player to the one he first encountered back in 2012.

“I just think that a year or so down the line from his first cap, England will be seeing a player with much greater maturity and a young player who has produced in big games,” Rodgers said.

“He’s a kid who’s just turned 19 but he’s a father now, that brings maturity into your life and he’s coping with that remarkably well.

“You see a young player who’s getting stronger and stronger every day; a young player who, tactically, has improved his level impressively.”

Ayre vows to splash the cash

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Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre has vowed to back Brendan Rodgers with cash for new signings when the transfer window reopens at the end of the season.

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The Reds paid £18million for Mamadou Sakho and £14million on Spanish duo Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto last summer, although January deals for Mohamed Salah and Yevhen Konoplyanka both fell through.

Ayre said: “We’ll continue to add to the team and support him in putting additional players into the group.”

The Reds currently sit second in the Premier League table, and look well set to make their long-awaited return to the Champions League, whilst they only trail leaders Chelsea by four points.

Ayre added: “The Liverpool fans who have been through these last few years with us are not just part of it – they are a big part of it and the reason to do it, to be honest.

“Our fans are a huge, huge part of our achievements and if you ask any player or any manager at any club, they’ll tell you the reason they do it is for the fans.

“I really believe that. We are blessed in that we have the best fans – and so many of them. Their support, as always, has been unquestionable.”

The Reds made a near £50million loss in their last financial year, but Ayre was keen to stress the club are heading in the right direction, with reduced debts and record turnover.

“These results demonstrate that the financial health of the club continues to make good progress as we continue our journey to transform the club on and off the pitch,” Ayre told the Liverpool Echo.

 

Johnson: Rodgers is a better manager than Mourinho

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Glen Johnson reckons Brendan Rodgers is a better manager than Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho.

The Liverpool number two played under Mourinho during his first spell as Chelsea boss, having become the first Blues signing of the Roman Abramovich era in 2003.

Johnson 1

Johnson was never able to become a first team regular under Mourinho at Stamford Bridge however, and thinks current Reds boss Rodgers is better at man-management.

“It was difficult for me under Jose at Chelsea because there was a moment when he said I deserved to play on merit,” he told the Daily Mail.

“He said if I played well in the next game I would play the week after. I got man of the match so he couldn’t drop me. Then in the next game he said the same thing and I got man of the match again.

“Then we had another game and after that Barcelona. I remember speaking to my agent and saying, ‘He won’t play me in this game because if I play well then he has to play me against Barcelona’, and I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

“He didn’t play me in that game and from that moment I just lost it and thought, ‘Well, how am I meant to respect you now? It’s just finished’.

“Brendan wouldn’t do that. He’s shown that if you’re good enough you’re old enough and you’ll play in the big games if you deserve to. So in terms of man management, Brendan is definitely better.”

Johnson also had words of praise for the style of play Rodgers has implemented since taking over at Anfield.

“Some managers like the thought of playing the way Brendan does but haven’t got the confidence or knowhow to pull it off.

“Others would probably have panicked and changed their philosophy just to try and win. But Brendan was mentally strong enough and knew what he was trying to implement was right and that once we grabbed hold of it we would be a success.”

The Reds currently sit second in the Premier League table, just four points behind leaders Chelsea, and Johnson admits confidence could not be higher.

“We believe we can win every game and I remember having that feeling at Chelsea,” he admitted.

“The first year we won the title (2005) we could be losing 2-0 and still think we would win, and we usually would. That was confidence at its peak and we are moving towards that at Liverpool.

“You have to believe you can win the league and until there are not enough points available we’ll keep thinking we can. We’ve got 10 cup finals, really, because we can’t afford to lose games or drop many points because Manchester City and Chelsea won’t.

“City are favourites because they could field a second team that would be competitive, and you can’t compete with that. So we will need a bit of luck but we are definitely good enough.

“Our goal at the start of the season was to finish in the top four and that is still our minimum aim. Finishing third, second or winning the title is a bonus but we are in a good position.

“The character and mentality in this squad are different. There were games last season when we battered teams and didn’t get results. We’ve got more of a killer instinct this year.”

 

Why the St Mary’s win means we can now dare to dream

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Despite Brendan Rodgers insistence that Liverpool remain ‘the chihuahua’s’ of this season’s crazy – and somehow animal themed – title race, Saturday’s result at St Mary’s has got Reds fans daring to dream again – and rightly so.

Suarez and Gerrard

St Mary’s has traditionally been a nightmare ground for the Reds in recent years.

A comical John Arne Riise own goal, a missed Michael Owen penalty, a deflected Ricky Lambert free kick and what must have been the only victory of Paul Sturrocks reign as the Saints boss have been just some of the miserable memories Reds fans have taken home from the south coast in recent years.

In fact, an Emile Heskey winner in 2003 was the only time Liverpool have previously managed three points down at St Mary’s – another late Saturday evening kick off incidentally.

The dreadful record at the home of the Saints meant Reds supporters went into Saturday’s game with understandable trepidation, coupled with the fact Southampton have looked a very decent side under Mauricio Pochettino this season.

With Chelsea winning at Fulham earlier in the day, Arsenal typically faltering at the Britannia, and City involved in the Capital One Cup final, Rodgers men had the incentive of climbing into second place with a win.

So many times down the years we have witnessed various Liverpool sides choke in big games such as this, so often the sort that separate the men from the boys.

Champions are able to grind out wins in fixtures such as these, something Liverpool have often struggled with.

But Saturday provided further evidence of Steven Gerrard’s testament earlier in the season: “Things feel different this year.”

It cannot be underestimated how crucial Saturday’s 3-0 win was. With no game next week, and a dangerous looking trip to Manchester United to follow the week after – no matter what state they find themselves in – a defeat at a ground in which the Reds have historically been awful, could have seen Tottenham level on points with us by the end of March 16th – and suddenly looking at a nervy race for fourth spot rather than a title challenge for the remainder of the season.

But the way in which Brendan Rodgers set up his team tactically, the way in which Luis Suarez turned on the style, the way in which Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel responded to criticism of themselves the previous week, has got me daring to dream that this could be Liverpool’s year after all.

A lot has been made of Liverpool’s away form this season, but the wins picked up on the road have come at grounds at which we have often been left disappointed down the years.

Scoring five at the Britannia, another five at White Hart Lane, and three at the Stadium of Light, Craven Cottage and St Mary’s has to be admired, whilst the 1-0 win in the early season clash at Aston Villa felt like it may prove crucial later down the line.

The consecutive 2-1 defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea were a major blow, as the Reds definitely deserved something from both games, and surely would have done so had it not been for horrendous officiating.

In fact you could argue the away fixtures at Arsenal and Hull City were the only games in which the Reds truly deserved to come away with nothing.

The fact Rodgers has got his side picking up wins at grounds which have so often proved banana skins in the past, coupled with the simply stunning home form, means the Reds must consider themselves well in with a chance of lifting the Premier League title in May.

Liverpool must travel to United, Cardiff, West Ham, Norwich and Crystal Palace before the end of the season – arguably all winnable fixtures.

Sunderland, Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea and Newcastle are all still nervously awaiting a trip to fortress Anfield.

You get the feeling Brendan and the team have already done the majority of the hard work, and with Rodgers reminding us this week how his teams traditionally finish the season stronger, you would not bet against Liverpool right now.

With confidence soaring, and the deadliest attack in the division, even the pundits on Soccer Saturday whose names aren’t Phil Thompson, are starting to take Liverpool seriously as title contenders.

The fans are daring to dream again, and will also play a huge part between now and the end of the season with their support.

It is hard to put your finger on exactly what it is, but there is just a feeling amongst Reds fans that this is starting to look like our year.

The 90th minute penalty save by Mignolet on the opening day, the ‘Spanish penalty’ at the Britannia, and the ricoshade that allowed Luis Suarez to tuck home that crucial opening goal at St Mary’s could all be considered signs that the football gods are smiling on the Reds this season.

Of course, we remain the underdogs, and a top four finish would still be considered a fantastic achievement.

But the fact Brendan and the boys have got us daring to dream of a league title when you consider the position we found ourselves in less than two years ago, has to be hugely admired.

All we can do now is enjoy it, show our support, and hope for the very best.

 

 

 

 

Agger: Sterling can handle the pressure

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Daniel Agger believes Raheem Sterling is more than capable of handling the pressure of international football.

Raheem Sterling

The 19-year-old has been in sensational form for the Reds since breaking into the first team in December, and fired his seventh goal of the season during the crucial 3-0 win over Southampton on Saturday.

The goal was even more impressive considering it was his first touch since being introduced as a substitute less than two minutes previously.

His form have earned him a call up to Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the upcoming friendly against Agger’s Denmark tomorrow evening.

There have also been calls for the young winger to be included in the Hodgson’s World Cup squad, and the Reds vice-captain believes his club teammate can replicate his outstanding form on the international stage.

“He can handle the pressure, or else he would not play for us, for Liverpool,” he said.

“It’s a great opportunity for him. If he continues what he is doing right now I cannot see why [he would] not [make the World Cup squad]. He is a great, great talent and has some qualities England can use.”

 

 

Ayre believes Brendan’s vision is prospering

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Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre believes the vision and philosophy proposed by manager Brendan Rodgers is starting to prosper.

Brendan Rodgers

With 10 Premier League matches remaining in the 2013-14 season, Liverpool find themselves six points clear in the top four, and just four points behind league leaders Chelsea.

The Reds currently occupy second place in the table, and supporters are starting to dream this side could deliver the first league title since 1990.

With the club also the highest scorers in the division with 73 goals from 28 matches, Ayre has praised Rodgers for the turnaround he has produced in under two years at the club, after taking on what he described as a  ‘huge challenge’ in restoring success to the club.

“We all had great faith in Brendan when he was appointed and I think he had a huge challenge in front of him,” he told the Liverpool Echo.

“We all did, but no one more than Brendan, because he comes to one of the biggest football clubs in the world, where expectation is high and there was a lot of work to do.

“In his first season he would admit that there was a lot of finding his feet and starting to impart his philosophy and his style into the team.

“I think what we have seen this year is that starting to grow and prosper. And we’ll continue to add to the team and support him in putting additional players into the group.

“Both the efforts of Brendan and the players have been astounding. One of the things I really like is that Brendan works with the team and sets the season out into little chunks so they have four- or five-game runs.

“So they focus on a short number of games – they don’t focus on the entire season. And it’s worked well for them. They work as a group, they are focused as a group. The results are being delivered as a group and the performances of the players have blown everyone away.”

Ayre was also keen to praise the Liverpool fans for the support and loyalty they have demonstrated throughout Rodgers tenure.

He added: “The Liverpool fans who have been through these last few years with us are not just part of it – they are a big part of it and the reason to do it, to be honest.

“Our fans are a huge, huge part of our achievements and if you ask any player or any manager at any club, they’ll tell you the reason they do it is for the fans.

“I really believe that. We are blessed in that we have the best fans – and so many of them. Their support, as always, has been unquestionable.”

 

Suarez: Reds future does not depend on top four

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Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez insists his future does not depend on whether Liverpool qualify for the Champions League this season.

The 27-year-old is playing some of the finest football of his career, with his 24 Premier League goals helping to fire Liverpool into second place in the table, just four points behind leaders Chelsea.

Luis Suarez

Suarez signed a new long term contract at Anfield in December, which is set to see him stay at the club until 2017, after a summer of speculation linking him with a switch to Arsenal.

There have been suggestions the Uruguayan international could look to leave if the club fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League, but Suarez has moved to calm concern amongst the Reds faithful.

Asked if he would stay should Liverpool miss out on the top four, Suarez told Four Four Two: “I think so. I signed my new contract because I’m very happy here and I want to stay where I’m enjoying football and life.

“Playing in the Champions League isn’t dependent on that.

“I’d actually prefer not to win this Golden Boot and for Liverpool to qualify for the Champions League this season.

“Any player would miss the Champions League. We’ve not been good enough since I’ve been here to qualify, but this could definitely be our year.

“It would be a frustration not to get fourth because we’ve done everything possible and given our maximum to qualify.”

Suarez remains confident that as ‘one of the best players in the world’ he can drive Liverpool back into Europe’s elite competition over the final ten games of the season.

“This is my best season yet. I feel in a very good place, physically and mentally,” he added.

“Every day, I feel better in this club. I hope to continue down this path because we want Champions League football for Liverpool and, personally speaking, I want to continue that mentality throughout the World Cup with Uruguay.

“I’m 27, at my peak, and I feel very happy within the club because I’m part of the best football in the world – the Premier League. I’m enjoying every game I play and my family life here, which is very important.

“I like winning. I hate losing – I’ve done enough of that. I’m one of the best players in the world, so having the opportunity to win everything – and losing only occasionally – is what drives me. I’m ambitious. I want to win and won’t stop until I score one, two or more goals.”

Suarez also had words of praise for Reds boss Brendan Rodgers, and believes the Northern Irishman can inspire the Reds to do even better next season.

He said: “You can tell he studied in Holland and Spain. He wants us to play with the ball on the floor.

“He understands the atmosphere in which players thrive and talks to us on a regular basis about how he wants us to play. He always said his first year would be a building one and the second would be better, which it has been. I hope next season can be better still.”

Flanno: ‘Our attack is up there with Europe’s best’

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Jon Flanagan believes Liverpool’s attacking trio of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling is up there with the best front lines in Europe.

Sturridge&Suarez

Brendan Rodgers side are the top scorers in the Premier League this season with 73 goals from 28 games.

The deadly duo of Suarez and Sturridge have managed an astonishing total of 42 strikes between them – a total more than 15 teams in the English top flight.

Meanwhile 19-year-old Sterling chipped in with his seventh strike in all competitions this season when coming off the bench in the 3-0 win over Southampton at St Mary’s.

And having witnessed the front three in action at close quarters, Flanagan believes the Reds have an attacking force up there with anything on the continent.

The 21-year-old told talkSPORT: “When you’ve got Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling up top, it doesn’t get much better than that. I think they’re the best in Europe at the moment.

“We’re scoring goals and everything is going well. We know we’re going to score goals with our strikeforce – to score so many goals this year, we’re in with a chance.

“We’re just concentrating on every game as it comes and hopefully we can keep pushing on. If we’re still in and around there towards the last five or six games, we’re in with a shout.”