Today we welcome the first of two new writers to the Liverpool Offside as Trevor looks at how Brendan Rodgers, like the fabled Irish saint traversing the Atlantic in his ramshackle craft, is navigating the choppiest waters in search of his own personal destiny.
This season has been like some sort of deranged Irish jig, with movement forward balanced by movement back and continuous sideways shuffling. In the wake of our most recent retrograde step, the infuriating mugging by West Bromwich Albion, Brendan Rodgers is being scrutinised with a new level of forensic rigour. His post-match observations were in the now familiar vein. The players were terrific. The effort could not be faulted. We deserved more.
Many of us have begun to feel uneasy about the apparent ease with which defeat is accepted by our gaffer. He is clearly comfortable in front of a camera in a way that Kenny Dalglish has never been but one is sometimes left pining for the toe-curling awkwardness of The King's post-defeat pressers. At least in his thinly-veiled contempt for the press there was evidence of the pain of loss and the love he has for Liverpool Football Club.
Obvious it may be, but our manager's travails since assuming the mantle have often called to mind those of his mythical namesake, St Brendan, who famously crossed the Atlantic 1500 years ago in a small, open, leather-hulled boat. St Brendan's quest was for the fabled Isle Of The Blessed. Rodgers' own holy grail is a tad more prosaic - the promised land of Champions League football. St Brendan was known as The Navigator - a moniker Rodgers would do well to live up to. If Rodgers could talk us into the Europe's premier competition, we'd be laughing. It's his actual football management that is causing some problems.
No definitive judgement of any value can or should be made about Brendan Rodgers until at least the end of this season. A solitary campaign is surely the least we can afford the man, especially in the context of this being Year Zero in a process of rebuilding. What we can do, however, is see patterns and trends that have emerged thus far under his tenure. These are a mixed bag of delights and horrors.
The football can be pretty and exhilarating but we have a soft centre with Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger gone from the Premiership's top pairing to a shambolic broken partnership. The tempo and pressing are often first-class but we lapse into extended periods of inviting the opposition on to us. We will often score first in matches but if we don't the game can slip away like the match against Steve Clarke's charges. "Ah", say the patient sages, "such are the inconsistencies that are an inevitable adjunct to establishing a new team". Those patient sages can be irritating as all hell when you just want to rage against the machine.
The overwhelming consensus on the Rodgers question appears to be that he is a decent man and a clever guy who has risen, perhaps, a little too quickly. He should not be blamed for that. His 'apprenticeship' with Chelsea, Watford, Reading and Swansea has been generally impressive and he seems to have that mixture of outward humility and inner confidence that is demanded of bosses in the English game. When we are irritated after a defeat it his hard not to wonder if there is a touch of the snake-oil salesman about him. At our most ebullient, following a victory, many of us have seen signs of potential greatness in the man. As is often the way, the truth is probably in between.
Like St Brendan, our manager's voyage has been perilous and traumatic. The Irish saint endured long periods of fasting and fought off sea-monsters. LFC under Rodgers have suffered winless streaks and battled the hideous beasts of Stoke City. St Brendan claimed to have God's protection on his journey. Clearly Rodgers needs to pick up the phone and speak to Fowler. If nothing else, he could take our penalties.