HOW Brendan Rodgers handles the challenge of managing Liverpool at the tender age of 39, and with only one season’s experience in top-flight management behind him, will be one of the more intriguing threads of the 2012/13 season, writes GRAEME ANDERSON.
Critics have been queuing up to have a go for weeks now in the wake of a botched first transfer window and indifferent start to the campaign.
Going into Saturday’s visit to Sunderland, he was being reminded this was the Reds’ poorest start to a league campaign in 50 years.
Afterwards, it was pointed out to him that this is the first time in 100 years that Liverpool have failed to win any of their opening four league fixtures.
The Anfield boss, though, left the Stadium of Light with hope in his heart after seeing his transitional team dominate Sunderland, holding out the prospect that a decent campaign could still be beckoning.
“I thought our performance was outstanding,” he said.
“By the end of it, I’m sure Sunderland were probably happier with the point than ourselves and that was full credit to my players.
“They were terrific.
“Statistics don’t always tell the whole story and I’ve seen enough to feel we will be competitive this season.
“We weren’t at our best against Arsenal, against West Brom, we were down to 10 men and we were fantastic against Man City and should have won.
“Against Sunderland, I thought we were excellent. Our rhythm and tempo, which was great, can only improve and you can see we’re going to get better.”
In the week in which the Hillsborough Independent Panel delivered justice to the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives 23 years ago, emotion hung heavily upon the visitors’ camp and Rodgers admitted: “It has been a very difficult few days.
“Some of the players have been involved in the tragedy through their relatives, but when you sign for Liverpool you sign a contract with the supporters as much as the club.
“The fans were great in the game, they kept driving on a young team and the performance really reflected that.
“We wanted to give a good display for ourselves and for the fans after such an emotional week.
“It was a good point all round and we go away in good heart because the balance and the movement and the play was exceptional.”
In a club sometimes overburdened by history, Rodgers is a radical departure from the Anfield boot-room tradition which exalts age and experience.
But in the wake of King Kenny’s most recent stewardship – marked by PR disasters, spendthrift transfer work and general drift – someone like Rodgers is surely the right way to go, even, if the risk is kill or cure.
The fans will have a huge amount of say in whether he’s given the time and space to succeed.
But Rodgers spoke well on Saturday, having handled himself impressively enough in a difficult week and if he fails it will not be through a lack of self-belief and determination.