Amid the grand celebrations around Liverpool's Premier League triumph, Leicester City coach Brendan Rodgers has a personal reason to feel elated about the way the Reds attained the “Holy Grail”.
Rodgers handed over the Liverpool coach role to Jurgen Klopp in 2015, and the German shaped up the side to realise its long-cherished title after 30 years.
Rodgers says Liverpool's crowing moment was a result of an “amazing” level of consistency that the team maintained this season. The former Liverpool manager opened up about his experience as the English season resumed post the coronavirus lockdown.
What do you think of your former side Liverpool becoming the champion for the first time in 30 years? Is it something that the fans are deservedly celebrating right now?
For Liverpool, it really has been the Holy Grail. And I sensed it first-hand as the manager as I could feel the expectations of the huge fan base that Liverpool has worldwide. I am absolutely delighted. They (Liverpool) thoroughly deserved the title.
They have been the most consistent top team this season and it is absolutely amazing in the way (seven matches to spare) they have done it.
And to get it off their backs (the burden of not winning the title) after 30 years is a long time. It is generations of families. So I think the happiness and the joy of it will be celebrated for a number of weeks.
Do you recall giving the captain's armband to Jordan Henderson, who replaced club legend Steven Gerrard?
When I first joined Liverpool, he (Henderson) had an offer from Fulham FC. I sat down with Jordan and asked him ‘what do you think?’ He said he wanted to stay. And I said ‘all I can promise is that I can help you become a better player.’
And from that meeting, we had a really strong bond. I have seen him mature in my time to a point where I asked him to become the vice-captain.
Then when Steven moved on, I invited Jordan to say that I was going to offer him the captaincy of Liverpool. It was one of the best decisions I ever made and he will be remembered as one of the best leaders of Liverpool.
You and your family had a close a brush with the coronavirus. How did you deal with it?
It started probably two weeks after we (Leicester City) had played our last game against Aston Villa. I was feeling a lack of strength and fatigue when I was doing my exercise. And one day, I had to go out but could hardly walk 10 yards. So that was the start of it but at that time I was just not thinking of it. I was feeling a little bit run down. I thought it had something to do with stress. And then I started to lose my sense of taste and smell. This was one of the symptoms of coronavirus.
This happened for three weeks and from the fourth week I started to get my strength back. By this time, my wife was not feeling well so we got a test done to determine that it was COVID-19.
Unfortunately, there are so many people in the world who had it much worse than what we had. Thankfully we were healthy enough to fight it out. But it it definitely was something different to what I've experienced before.
Leicester, currently third in the Premier League, is in contention for the FA Cup. How has this campaign been for you? Is it where you expected to be when the season began?
To be honest, I think the team has overachieved. We definitely had our goals but I think the development of the squad and the development of our style has been very, very pleasing. We aim to build on that over the next couple of years.
We have played 31 games and we’re in a brilliant position. You know, we set third in the league. Defensively we've been very strong. I think people like to talk about a team's attacking line up, but fundamentally to attack you have to defend well. And only Liverpool has conceded lesser goals than us.
And in attack, we would definitely like to play a brand of football that excites people and the supporters. But it has really been good season and we aim to finish it well.
Jamie Vardy and James Maddison seem to have great chemistry upfront. Is that something that has been worked out in training?
I think you're always working in your training to connect all the lines on the field. Of course James’ role is to assist and to score goals. He has this wonderful vision of the game, he sees the early paths and has one of best strikers in the world to pass to it in Jamie Vardy.
There's a lot of work that goes into ensuring that we remain synchronised as a team and that's something that we coaches work very hard to get it over to the players.
You have a big game coming up against Chelsea in the FA Cup. Chelsea played really to beat Manchester City a few days ago . What do you make of that match in terms of your preparation for the next game against Chelsea?
I think it's a different game. The big clubs want to impose and they want to win the game from the very first whistle. Chelsea has a team that will come out to win the game. They would look to play fast and play aggressive football. This is perfect because we want to play that way as well. So, there probably will be much more space for us in the game. And that's something that we shall look forward to.
In the other two games (in Premier League after the resumption) we had a high percentage of possession. Both Watford and Brighton sat in deep and when you are not quite at your highest level of fitness, it can be difficult to break that defensive block. But we've had another few days of training after that and hopefully can play a different game on Sunday.
Ben Chilwell's name has been doing the rounds and he's become one of the most sought after left-backs in the world. What are your views on the situation?
I'm experienced enough to know that it’s all part of the game. You tend to ignore all the gossip and speculation around players, coaches and managers.
All I know is that Ben's a wonderful talent. He's 23 years of age and he’s English. He is one of the best left-backs in the world of football and I know he can get better, he can improve.
He has been a joy to work with since I have come here as a coach. But speculations don’t really affect him. He's been in fantastic form since he's come back. He trained well and played well in the games. And I expect him to continue with that.
Watch the FA Cup matches live on Sony Ten 2 channels
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