To suggest that Brendan Rodgers demonstrated his loyalty to Swansea City by leaving them to join Liverpool is an obvious paradox, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. At the moment, there are many Swansea City supporters who are experiencing feelings of sadness, hurt and even betrayal and, sadly, our old friend Judas when paired with “Brendan Rodgers” in a Google search brings back 163,000 results, which clearly reflects the mood of certain supporters at this point in time. However, I hope that the bulk of Swansea City fans can get past the emotion, leave that wicked name from Biblical history alone, and instead, just take a look at the bigger picture.
In February this year, Rodgers signed a new three and a half year contract with Swansea, to replace the one year deal he was in possession of. Yes, that’s right, one year. Not much loyalty from a club to it’s “saviour” manager a year, I’d suggest, but Rodgers never moaned, never played other clubs interest off against his perilous situation to broker a better deal, instead, he just did what he always believed he should do, worked hard, let the results speak for themselves, and then allowed the club to discover his worth themselves, and reward him accordingly, which they did, with that new deal.
But there was a twist that went largely unreported at the time. Rodgers, himself a human paradox of a humble man containing massive self belief and enormous ambition, already knew what we all now know, that he was destined for greater things. It was always only ever going to be a matter of time before one of the big clubs saw what he was doing in south Wales and that they would soon come calling, the only real question was, which one would it be? We understood that Tottenham were enormously keen should Harry be swept away to England, but that move was killed as we all saw Harry instead, almost being swept away to clink, so Hodgson now wears the Three Lions instead of Redknapp. No room at the Lane. But it was around this time that Rodgers made his extraordinary offer of loyalty to his beloved Swansea City. And make no mistake all you shouting “Judas”, to Rodgers, Swansea – the club and the city – is beloved to him and always will be.
Rodgers insisted that a clause was inserted in his new contract, that if one of the big boys came calling, £5 million would be the cost of his head, should he decide he wanted to walk away. In these days of £50 million pound transfers, £5 million can almost be sniffed at, but when I tell you that in all the hundreds of managerial deals that have taken place in the Premier League since it began, only one – Redknapp coincidentally, when he left Portsmouth for the Lane – has been worth more. This humble man who just 18 months earlier couldn’t get an interview for a League One club, built in an almost unprecedented transfer fee – one incidentally, that risked scuppering any future move for him – in order that Swansea City were protected. That’s a pretty loyal statement to me.
As of course, is his – and Liverpool’s – agreement not to come back and poach Swansea City’s star players for a period of 12 months. Again, I’m not sure that many managers would have agreed to such a strict clause in a new contract of employment, which appears to prevent him purchasing players of the likes of Michel Vorm, Ashley Williams, Joe Allen, Leon Britton, Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer, all of whom in my opinion, would enhance the current Liverpool squad, but Rodgers did, and did so, because in his words about Swansea, he does not want to “destroy a brilliant time and a brilliant relationship.” Are these the words and actions of a Judas? Of course they are not.
Rodgers insisted that a clause was inserted in his new contract, that if one of the big boys came calling, £5 million would be the cost of his head, should he decide he wanted to walk away.
Instead, those, to me, are the words of a man of honour, and a man who deserves not to be booed and abused when he brings his Liverpool team to the Liberty Stadium next season, but rather roundly applauded and thanked. Brendan Rodgers worked tirelessly for every moment he spent in the employ of Swansea City, and that is how loyalty to a club should be measured in these days of an open transfer market for players and managers. The only truly loyal people in football are fans, and all they can ask is that while a player or manager represents their club, that they give 100% effort and commitment. Rodgers did that and more, so should not now be condemned for accepting an offer to manage at one of the world’s biggest clubs.
The ultimate irony of this modern tale can be found in Rodgers’ last ever programme notes for Swansea, in their final match of the season, against – who else? – Liverpool. They read, “Being the leader and manager of this great club can also make it a lonely place. However, “The Swansea Family” has ensured I’ve never walked alone.”
His choice of phrasing in that last sentence is coincidental in the extreme, as I believe absolutely, that Rodgers will deliver success and celebration back to Liverpool, very much in the manner that a certain Bill Shankly did when he arrived at the club in 1959 with instructions to awake a sleeping giant. In achieving success, “You’ll never walk alone” will be a tune Rodgers will become enormously familiar with. As for being part of “The Swansea Family”? Well families always fall out, but it is the strength of bond that means, in the end, disagreements are forgotten, and relationships strengthen. Given time.
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The loyalty that Rodgers has demonstrated to Swansea City in his leaving, means that I hope he will always be welcomed back to the club, and to the city and never, ever be abused by the fans who so recently adored him. That is the very least that this excellent manager and extraordinary man deserves.