Premier League Clubs Managed: Swansea City (2011-2012), Liverpool FC (2012-2015), Leicester City (2019-PRESENT)
Brendan Rodgers is back in the Premier League having just been confirmed as Claude Puel’s successor at Leicester City. This is after he broke records and new grounds in the Scottish Premiership with Celtic. Back-to-back trebles and an unbeaten campaign with the Bhoys in 2016-2017, Rodgers was on-course to win more honours in this campaign, eight points clear of Rangers, led by his former Liverpool FC captain, Steven Gerrard. However, the lure of managing again in the Premier League has been too much for Rodgers to resist.
Previously in England, Rodgers learned his trade under the wing of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea before going onto great success with Swansea City. This earned him the huge opportunity to manage Liverpool FC and he came within an inch of ending the Reds’ league championship drought in 2013-2014.
Growing up as a supporter of Celtic and Sheffield Wednesday, Rodgers began his playing career as a defender at Ballymena United. He was signed by Reading at the age of 18 but he never made a first-team appearance and a genetic knee condition meant he was forced to stop playing at just 20. Reading kept him on the books as a youth coach and academy director for several years.
He decided to travel around Spain to study coaching methods and in 2004, was invited by new Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to become the club’s new youth manager. He received the recommendation to join the Blues by Mourinho’s assistant, Steve Clarke – who is now also a Premiership manager rival of Rodgers’ up in Scotland with Kilmarnock.
In 2006, he earned the promotion to manage the reserve team and even after Mourinho’s departure, Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari kept him in that particular role. However, his first senior management opportunity was about to follow in Hertfordshire.
The Royal return doesn’t work out
In November 2008, Aidy Boothroyd left Watford with the club in relegation trouble in the Championship. They were 21st in the table and turned to rookie Rodgers to try and revive their fortunes.
His first experience of management at first-team level didn’t start well. The Hornets dropped into the relegation zone by the end of January and suffered a League Cup exit at the quarter-final stage to holders, Tottenham Hotspur. However, Rodgers stuck to his principles and he guided the club away from danger from February onwards. A run of five wins in six matches saw them finish a creditable 13th in the table.
A few weeks later, his former club Reading were looking for a new boss after Steve Coppell resigned following their failure to earn promotion via the play-offs. Although he initially distanced himself to the job, the lure of returning to Berkshire couldn’t be ignored and a compensation package was eventually agreed which saw Brendan leave Watford and take the vacancy at Reading.
The return didn’t work out. Reading managed just an average of one point per game and won just once at home during his tenure in the Championship. In December 2009, days after conceding a late equaliser at home to fellow strugglers, Scunthorpe United, he parted company with the club by mutual consent after just over six months in-charge. He managed only five victories in an unsuccessful stint at The Madejski Stadium.
Achieving history with Swansea
In July 2010, Rodgers returned to full-time management with Swansea City, succeeding Paolo Sousa. Prior to this appointment, it had looked like he would take up a first-team coaching position alongside Roberto Mancini at Manchester City but the lure of management on his own was simply too much. The Swans played some of the best football in the 2010-2011 Championship season and comfortably finished in the top six.
They made the play-off final and incredibly, it was Reading – the club who had ditched him when the going was tough who were the opponents in the battle to reach the holy grail of the Premier League. Swansea prevailed, winning 4-2 thanks to a Scott Sinclair hat-trick. Rodgers had achieved history by guiding Swansea to the Premier League, becoming the first Welsh club to play at this level.
The experts immediately tipped Swansea for an instant return to the Championship but despite failing to score in their first four matches, he stuck to his principles and prevailed. A strong home record which included victories over Arsenal, eventual champions Manchester City and Liverpool FC saw the Swans finish an exceptional 11th in their debut Premier League campaign. During the season, he signed a contract extension to remain as the club’s manager but when Liverpool FC sacked Kenny Dalglish days after the 2011-2012 season concluded, Rodgers name was immediately linked with the vacancy on Merseyside.
So close with Liverpool
Initially, it seemed like Wigan boss Roberto Martinez was the favourite with the bookmakers but the American owners of Liverpool, The Fenway Sports Group, had earmarked Rodgers as their preferred candidate. In June 2012, compensation was agreed with Swansea and the Northern Irishman was unveiled as Liverpool’s new manager.
His first campaign seemed to be slightly underwhelming. Liverpool finished seventh in the Premier League, below Merseyside rivals Everton and were eliminated from the FA Cup at the fourth round stage by League One strugglers, Oldham Athletic. However, he was building for the future and form improved in the second half of the campaign following the January arrivals of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, whilst Luis Suarez was in sensational form and seemed to improve under the coaching of Rodgers.
In 2013-2014, Liverpool’s minimum target was to challenge for a top four finish. Without any distractions from a European campaign, the Reds could focus on this goal but they well and truly exceeded expectations. They won their first three matches to top the Premier League table and were still sitting top on Christmas Day of a thrilling title battle against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Back-to-back defeats to City and Chelsea dropped Liverpool to fifth by the turn of the year and he was fined £8,000 by the FA for making comments about Lee Mason’s performance during Liverpool’s 2-1 Boxing Day defeat to the Citizens. However, Liverpool remained firmly in the title race, helped by the emergence of Raheem Sterling as a prosperous talent, the goals from the ‘SAS’ partnership between Sturridge and Suarez and some stunning displays from Gerrard at the heart of the midfield.
An 11-game winning sequence, which included a highly-charged and poignant 3-2 victory over Manchester City in April, had the fans dreaming of a first league championship in 24 years. However, it was not to be. Two weeks later, Gerrard slipped against Chelsea, allowing Demba Ba through on-goal to put the Blues ahead. Mourinho’s side won 2-0 and handed the title advantage to Manchester City. A dramatic collapse at Selhurst Park a week later at Crystal Palace ended the dream. It was a missed opportunity but Liverpool had never come so close to landing the Premier League prize. They scored 101 goals and thrilled spectators throughout the country but conceding 50 goals were one of the detrimental factors to their title tilt.
In the summer of 2014, Suarez left for Barcelona and Sturridge spent much of the campaign on the sidelines thanks to injury. Rodgers spent big but failed to find an adequate replacement for the Uruguayan forward. Mario Balotelli was a gamble that backfired whilst Lazar Markovic proved to be an expensive flop and Dejan Lovren struggled with his £20 million price tag. Back in the UEFA Champions League, Liverpool struggled to make an impact, achieving just one victory from their six group games and exiting the competition at the first hurdle. Rodgers’ decision to rest his star names at The Bernabeu, including Gerrard, caused a rift between the boss and his captain and that turned out to be the catalyst for Gerrard’s summer departure to LA Galaxy.
Liverpool finished a distant sixth, losing 6-1 on the final day at Stoke City and lost in domestic cup semi-finals to Chelsea and Aston Villa respectively. The campaign had been a real disappointment but the owners continued to have faith in Rodgers and stuck by him in the summer, providing further funds to allow Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne to join the club.
By now, the patience of the supporters with Rodgers had run out. The frailties that had persisted through the title near-miss of 2013-2014 hadn’t been fixed nearly 18 months on. They limped past Carlisle United on penalties in the League Cup third round and couldn’t even beat Swiss part-timers FC Sion in the UEFA Europa League group stages. Speculation was rife that his time was up at Anfield.
Hours after a 1-1 draw with Merseyside neighbours Everton in the 225th Merseyside Derby, Rodgers was sacked by the owners – his fate had been sealed before the match after a run of just one win in nine matches in all competitions. He left with Liverpool sitting a distant 10th in the table.
It was a chastening end to what had been an initial promising start to his Liverpool reign.
In May 2016, he was appointed as Celtic’s new manager on a 12-month rolling contract and immediately set to work on one of the clubs he supported as a boy. Celtic had been winning titles comfortably under the previous regime but had been failing to win the domestic cup competitions and made little impact in Europe either. The aim was to make the Bhoys stronger in European competition and to leave nothing on the table in terms of silverware for the other Scottish clubs.
In 2016-2017, he achieved history by guiding Celtic to a domestic treble for the fourth time in their history and ending the season unbeaten in all domestic competitions. They became the first Scottish top-flight side to complete an unbeaten league campaign since 1899, finishing with 106 points and a whopping 30 points clear of runners-up Aberdeen. The Dons were beaten in the Scottish Cup final and the Scottish League Cup final too as Celtic managed their 100th major trophy in their history.
They went 69 games unbeaten domestically before losing 4-0 to Hearts at Tynecastle in December 2017. Nevertheless, they once again cruised to the Premiership title and beat Motherwell in both domestic cup finals, becoming the first manager to win a ‘Double Treble’ in the history of Scottish football.
His success at Celtic wasn’t ignored and it meant his name was often linked with vacant Premier League jobs when they came up. In February 2019, he decided to cut his ties at Parkhead and return down south to the Premier League, taking over a Leicester City side sitting 12th in the table and having lost six on their last seven matches in all competitions. He definitely has a point to prove, both to Leicester supporters and the Premier League in general.