The Boss Files: Brendan Rodgers

By: Watford FC Staff

To help celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Watford’s move to Vicarage Road, Daily Mirror sports writer Mike Walters recalls his encounters with those who have occupied the Hornets’ hotseat.

Pride of place on Brendan Rodgers’ desk has always gone to a framed £5 note to commemorate George Best.

It makes a handy paperweight as well as a reminder of Best’s mesmerising gifts as a player: Quick, exquisite skill, extraordinary balance, clinical and – in an era of unforgiving tackles – impossibly brave.

Rodgers told me about his favourite desktop accessory shortly after his appointment, unknown to most people beyond football’s inner circle, as Watford manager in late 2008.

That limited-edition Best fiver followed him to Reading, Swansea, Liverpool and beyond as his coaching career unfurled.

“George Best always looms large over everything in Northern Irish football,” said Rodgers. “Sadly, I never got to meet him, but he’s a legend and when he died, they produced £5 notes with him on them as a tribute.

“I’ve got one of them on my desk because it’s important to know where your roots are and what you aspire to be.”

After agreeing to take his first steps in management at Watford, one of the first text messages he received was from former Manchester United captain and now leading TV pundit Roy Keane – who was then in charge of Sunderland.

It read simply: “Welcome to Hell.”

Rodgers said: “I’m not really in favour of being fast-tracked. I think you need to do your badges and put your time in, to learn and develop, but when you do take the plunge, your name won’t save you for long if you’re no good at it.

“My dear old friend Tommy Burns, the Celtic legend, once told me that when the curtains go back and the spotlight is shining on you, nothing can prepare you for that.

“One of the biggest influences behind me coming to Watford was their history of giving young people a chance and turning them into big players or managers. Not all clubs are brave enough to do that, but Watford gave guys like Aidy Boothroyd a chance and reaped the rewards.”

In the eyes of this observer, Rodgers’ Liverpool team of 2014 was the most exciting never to win the title, perhaps even better than Bobby Robson’s Ipswich side pipped by Aston Villa in 1981 and Jurgen Klopp’s class of 2019 at Anfield.

When Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge were leading the plunder of 101 goals that season, it was worlds apart from the timid 1-1 draw against Doncaster that launched his career in senior management at Vicarage Road just six years earlier.

In fairness, Rodgers arrived in this parish wedded to the 4-3-3 doctrine of his mentor Jose Mourinho as part of Chelsea’s coaching fraternity.

And if truth be told, for a couple of months the jury was out on Rodgers at The Vic. But he switched to a 4-4-2 shape for an FA Cup tie against Crystal Palace, Watford won 4-3 and he never looked back.

If the conjecture which preceded Rodgers’ exit from WD18 after only seven months was a source of regret for club and the departing manager himself, let’s not forget the £200,000 transfer deal he set up for his successor Malky Mackay.

Rodgers’ parting gift to Watford was striker Danny Graham. All is forgiven.

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