His team plays the most exciting football in England, he is a former footballer who played for Ballymena United in Northern Ireland and Reading FC before retiring at the age of 20, a protégé of Jose Mourinho’s coaching staff during the ‘Special One’s’ golden years at Chelsea, a former Watford and Reading gaffer, still don’t know who Britain’s answer to Pep Guardiola is?
Swansea City manager, Brendan Rodgers.
Enter, Brendan Rodgers.
Although Brendan Rodgers didn’t have the best of win percentages at Watford Football Club (40%) and Reading Football Club (26%), his management style and playing style so far at newly promoted Swansea City, has been one of the revelations of this fairly average Premier League season.
Before we get into Rodgers’ expertise, let’s rewind to when Mourinho appointed Rodgers as his youth team coach in 2004. As soon as Roman Abramovich appointed the ‘Special One’, one of his first assignments was to bring in a Youth coach with experience, Brendan Rodgers was the Reading FC Youth Academy director from his retirement in 1995 to 2004.
Rodgers was at the helm of the Chelsea U18 team when they had two of the most exciting players in the country, Sam Hutchinson and Scott Sinclair. These two players were very much in Jose Mourinho’s long-term plans for the club, especially Hutchinson.
“I know his mentality and I know he’ll be a Chelsea player. The kid has big potential and because of his size, we have to decide if he can be a top central defender or a top right back. We have to see the definition of his body and make a decision,” said Mourinho speaking about Hutchinson in 2006.
Rodgers brought these two through the Youth ranks, he especially saw Sinclair as a potential first team player for Chelsea, and after Sinclair netted 20 goals in his debut youth team season, Mourinho repaid Rodgers and Sinclair by giving him a first team number the following season, and gave Sinclair a chance against Wycombe in a League Cup tie.
Five years later, after many unsuccessful loan spells away from Chelsea, he joined his former Youth Team boss, Rodgers at Swansea. The 2010/2011 season was where both Rodgers and Sinclair reunited for Swansea City’s finest season to date, being promoted to the Premier League through a 4-2 Play-Off final victory over Reading, Rodgers’ former club.
You may think the Rodgers and Sinclair link is irrelevant, but Swansea’s no. 11 bagged three goals in that game at Wembley, a game that has defined both Rodgers and Sinclair’s careers until recently.
Many wrote off Rodgers and his Swansea boys at the start of the 2011/2012 Premier League season, those who have done so at their peril, such as Stan Collymore who recently tweeted and stated on talkSPORT radio, “I wrote Swansea City off at the start of the season, I will be the first to say I was wrong, Brendan Rodgers has done a brilliant job.”
“A Brilliant Job” is an understatement, in my opinion. Although Rodgers’ team didn’t get their first win in the Premier League till the 17th of September, a 3-0 win against West Brom at the Liberty Stadium, since that game, the Liberty Stadium has been a fortress for them, excluding one game where they lost 1-0 against Manchester United, playing scintillating football.
What has also helped Swansea City, is that they have started picking up points away from home, which will definitely guarantee more plaudits from fans and pundits alike.
Rodgers pleads to his team to keep the ball on the deck, to play the ball out from the back. Rodgers has assembled a fine Premier League squad on a shoestring budget, compare this to the Champions of the Championship, QPR, who have spent extravagant amounts on players, who have been average this season, sacked the manager who brought them up to the division, and hired Mark Hughes, who in my opinion, is an average manager.
What QPR need to do is implement a passing, attacking, pressing philosophy like Barcelona and Arsenal started, and what Rodgers has adapted for Swansea City in the Premier League, and these tactics have paid dividends, as Swansea are 8th in the Premier League, have taken on Arsenal at their own attacking game and completely outplayed them at the Liberty Stadium, beating them 3-2, their most recent home game, playing Man City and won 1-0 when it could’ve been two or three, and beating Fulham at Craven Cottage 3-0, not an easy game, and were clapped off by the Fulham fans for an impressive display.
Rodgers has been lucky with a few of the loan transfers he has brought in, who can play a passing game, the Chelsea youngster Josh McEachran, Icelandic play-marker Gylfi Sigurdsson and Tottenham centre half Steven Caulker. They have all brought a different dimension to the already attacking squad at Swansea City, all three players can play with the ball at their feet, and as Swansea start their passing and attacking play from the back into the midfield, a defence containing Caulker and Williams who are happy to play the ball out from the back, is only good for the Premier League. Bringing in former prolific Watford forward, Danny Graham, has been one of the signings of the season for Swansea, as he has bagged important goals and leads the line well with two pacy wingers in Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer.
Rodgers has a midfield that is Barcelona-esque with playmaking midfielders who can retain the ball and play pinpoint passes in Welsh international Joe Allen and former Arsenal academy product, Leon Brittain, who has been a revelation in the Premier League.
It has been a fairytale first season for Rodgers and the South Wales side, his second season will be the one that may define him as a young manager, as most newly promoted teams and managers who survive their first season, get found out by the usual Premier League teams and go through the ‘Second Season Syndrome’.
Although Rodgers could yet be a sought after man if Redknapp decides to become England manager this summer.