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Flashback! The final days of Brendan Rodgers

Many supporters are in agreement that the final day of the 2014/15 season should have been the final game in charge for Brendan Rodgers. The final match of Steven Gerrard’s glittering career ending in the worst possible fashion as Stoke City scored 5 first half goals on their way to a crushing 6-1 victory over Liverpool. It is quite possible this was down to Jurgen Klopp taking a small break from the game following his final season in charge of Borussia Dortmund where an awful start to their campaign saw the club seemingly destined for relegation but following the announcement that he would leave at the season’s end, there was an upturn in fortune and Dortmund scraped a Europa League spot. Four Four Two speculated about Klopp coming to England, but missed out one team in particular, no mentions for the club where he would end up in October 2015 but Arsenal? Man City? Man Utd? where next for the hippest coach was their headline.

In the final full season in charge, Brendan Rodgers chose to field an incredibly weakened side at the Bernabeu, a decision that made his mind up to leave Liverpool, Steven Gerrard has said in interviews since his departure. He also managed to get Liverpool to limp to an FA Cup semi final, negotiating past AFC Wimbledon, Bolton Wanderers, Crystal Palace and Blackburn, needing replays after 0-0 draws at Anfield with Bolton and Blackburn before a 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa where a Mario Balotelli goal was incorrectly disallowed but Liverpool truly didn’t deserve any help from the referee. In terms of the league run-in, 2 wins from the final 9 league games with 5 of those defeats, including a crushing 4-1 defeat to Arsenal and defeats in Gerrard’s final matches both at Anfield and for Liverpool in general against Crystal Palace and Stoke City.

The decision was taken to keep Rodgers in charge for what would be his 4th campaign and it started with a victory as a long range strike from Philippe Coutinho got some sort of revenge at Stoke City but that was one of the few highs of a disappointing 3 months. Coming out of the stadium, there was some optimism, especially considering the additions in the summer had included Coutinho’s fellow Brazilian Roberto Firmino although the signing of Adam Bogdan was the one that left supporters scratching their heads the most. The opening league match at Anfield was moved to a Monday night for the visit of newly promoted Bournemouth. The statistics read that Liverpool won 1-0 but it was a laboured win and needed Christian Benteke to pop up and score despite Coutinho’s slight touch renedering the Belgian offside. The following week, it was Liverpool supporters including myself on a journey down to London to watch Liverpool face Arsenal at a very wet Emirates for the first start of Roberto Firmino where his fellow Brazilian came the closest to breaking the deadlock as his thunderous efforts twice struck the woodwork as the game ended 0-0.

Brendan Rodgers would go on to manage Liverpool 8 more times before his tenure ended but he would only be celebrating a victory inside the 90 minutes once. West Ham United in their final season at Upton Park had begun the season by winning away at Arsenal before losing both their league games at Upton Park to Leicester and Bournemouth respectively. They came to Anfield and tore Liverpool apart 3-0 in a game that saw Coutinho dismissed before Mark Noble followed him for an early bath. West Ham followed this up by beating Man City in their next away game as well. After the pause for the international break, it was destination Old Trafford where they had a new signing in Anthony Martial to come off the bench and make Martin Tyler jubilant as he restored a 2 goal advantage for United minutes after an early contender for goal of the season from Christian Benteke from a Jordan Ibe delivery albeit with a helpful touch off Daley Blind had threatened to start a comeback, sealing the final defeat of Brendan Rodgers time in charge. Unknown at the time but 6 games would follow with 5 of them finishing as 1-1 at the end of them. The 1st of those would come in the Europa League where despite Adam Lallana giving Liverpool the lead in France, with just under 10 minutes to play Willy Sagnol’s Bordeaux were able to salavage a draw.

Norwich at Anfield - 2015

The following Sunday and another newly promoted side were welcomed to Anfield in the shape of Norwich City and after a first half ending without the scoreboard being troubled, Danny Ings was brought on in place of Christian Benteke and he responded pretty much immediately, as a lovely ball from Alberto Moreno sent Danny Ings away and as the goalkeeper tried to close down the angle, Ings slotted the ball into the net for his 1st goal but Norwich were allowed back into the game and just after the hour mark registered an equaliser. A different competition was to follow in midweek as Carlisle United visited Anfield for a fixture many would have expected Liverpool to comfortably negotiate and it looked like that would be the case when Danny Ings scored but just over 10 minutes later and the defence went AWOL and allowed the league 2 side to equalise and despite further efforts in normal time and extra time, the tie headed to penalties where an unusual hero was found in Adam Bogdan who came up with 3 penalty saves which helped keep Liverpool on the road to Wembley, where a 3rd shootout in the competition during that campaign saw the club finish runners up as Man City triumphed thanks to 3 saves by Caballero.

Aston Villa were the final side to taste defeat to a Brendan Rodgers Liverpool side but it wasn’t so straight forward despite James Milner scoring in just 66 seconds. The build up to the match had been littered with speculation that Brendan Rodgers would indeed be replaced by Jurgen Klopp with some sections of the fanbase apparently arranging to dress up as the German coach, although I don’t recall seeing anybody participating. Daniel Sturridge ended his Liverpool scoring duck as his first goals in approximately 6 months since scoring in a defeat to Man United came like buses sandwiching a strike by Rudy Gestede who would get a 2nd for himself just minutes later taking the total to 3 goals in 5 minutes and allowed for nervousness in the last 20 minutes of the action. Liverpool persevered and despite the victory, the pressure and rumours only intensified in what would transpire to be the final week in charge for a man who just 2 seasons earlier had came close to giving Liverpool their 1st league title since 1990.

The Europa League game at Anfield and the final match in front of the Kop under his stewardship could not garner a win despite Adam Lallana opening the scoring after a great run from Divock Origi inside 4 minutes as Sion managed to equalise after 17 minutes as a ball was played over the top and despite Jordon Ibe and Simon Mignolet attempting to narrow the angle down, the ball was in the Kop end net and push Rodgers perilously close to the brink.

Derby Day on Merseyside…intense rumours swirled that this would be his final match and during the upcoming international break, a new man would be put in charge with teasing comments from Jurgen Klopp and his representatives seemingly confirming that it would be the German in place. After Simon Mignolet had managed to deny Steven Naismith, a rare moment for Liverpool as they scored from a corner as Danny Ings celebrated his call up to the England squad with a beautiful header but Romelu Lukaku equalised for Everton and it was within a few hours of the final whistle that Liverpool Football Club made the decision to release a statement stating that Brendan Rodgers was no longer the manager, something that seemed inevitable even if there had been a win at Goodison Park. 4 days later, Jurgen Klopp was pictured smiling next to Ian Ayre, starting a brand new chapter in the history of Liverpool FC.

Rodgers at Goodison in his final game

Rodgers at Goodison in his final game

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