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trophy winner Is Brendan Rodgers on course to be the greatest Irish manager of all time?

Leaving the foxes would be a big risk for Brendan Rodgers

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Khun Top (left) and Brendan Rodgers celebrate Leicester’s success (Nick Potts/PA)

Khun Top (left) and Brendan Rodgers celebrate Leicester’s success (Nick Potts/PA)

Khun Top (left) and Brendan Rodgers celebrate Leicester’s success (Nick Potts/PA)

Brendan Rodgers... the greatest Irish manager of all time.

For someone who has never been shy to promote the idea that he is a step or two ahead of his rivals, such a title would sit well alongside the trophies he now has in an increasingly impressive collection when his career comes to an end.

As the man from Co Antrim basked in his ultimate moment of glory when he guided Leicester to FA Cup glory at Wembley last weekend, the legacy of a 48-year-old, who has a career already packed with enough highs and lows to last a lifetime, was secured.

Never again can his sceptics suggest he is a nearly man who only won major trophies in a Scottish football landscape that ensured he could not fail as he led Celtic to seven major trophies in a little over two-and-a-half years at Parkhead.

Rodgers is a winner in the game’s most competitive landscape and those who ridiculed his decision to quit Celtic for Leicester in March 2019 are not asking any questions now.

In fact, it could be argued that his achievements at the King Power Stadium are more impressive than the success he generated in Scotland, as lifting trophies when you are working with the ninth biggest wage bill in the Premier League is an achievement way beyond expectation.

Battle

Leicester’s first-ever FA Cup final win against Chelsea will ensure that this will forever be a season to remember and while they missed out on Champions League qualification on the final day of the season, this was still an historic campaign for the Foxes.

Yet Rodgers is right to apply some perspective to his side’s ambitions, suggesting his flyweights are mixing it with heavyweight rivals and punching with a venom that few could match.

“If we don’t make the Champions League, so be it, but let’s not forget what we are doing here,” he declared.

“We are competing against some of the wealthiest clubs in world football – and three of them are in major European finals over the next few days.

“To be where we are is a remarkable tribute to the players and everyone at the club.

“Whatever happens on Sunday, we have created history by winning the FA Cup for the first time in Leicester’s history, and we have still had a great season.”

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Brendan Rodgers was thrown into the air by his Leicester players after their FA Cup triumph (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

Brendan Rodgers was thrown into the air by his Leicester players after their FA Cup triumph (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

Brendan Rodgers was thrown into the air by his Leicester players after their FA Cup triumph (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

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Rodgers’ road to the top has been less than conventional, with a genetic knee condition ending his hopes of a career as a player and forcing him to turn to coaching, while he also took on a job working at a John Lewis department store.

It was the Reading boss Alan Pardew who spotted his potential as a coach and invited Rodgers to be part of his scouting network.

Then he was offered a chance to join Chelsea as a youth-team coach in 2004, after a recommendation from current Scotland manager Steve Clarke, who was Jose Mourinho’s assistant at Stamford Bridge at the time.

Mourinho saw something of himself in the shamelessly confident Rodgers, and while his first management job at Watford brought moderate success, the confidence that has always been part of his make-up was in evidence when he returned to Reading as manager in 2009.

Former Ireland striker Kevin Doyle tells a story of Rodgers taking him into his room at Reading shortly before he moved to Wolves and gave him a long insight into his vision and desire to reach the pinnacle of the game.

At the time, Doyle was a little bemused that a novice manager he was never going to work with would be so keen to furnish him with his vision of the game, but Rodgers always believed he was destined for greatness.

That self-promotional aspect of his make-up made his emergence on the football scene hard for some to take seriously, especially when he landed the role of Liverpool manager after guiding Swansea to the Premier League in 2012.

Hallowed

Stepping into the hallowed halls of Anfield and trying to convince the world that he could join the greats of Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish was a hard sell for a manager who had won little of note in the game.

And while he so nearly delivered the ultimate prize of the Premier League title in 2014, the social-media trolls had turned Rodgers into a figure of fun and ridicule long before he was replaced by Jurgen Klopp in October 2015.

He needed to rebuild and the decision to take on the Celtic job and add trophies to his CV was a master-stroke that saw him return to the Premier League with more credibility. His achievements at Leicester now single him out as one of the game’s most respected managers.

It should remind the architect of their success that he would be taking a huge gamble if he left the stable surrounds of Leicester to take on jobs at clubs where success is demanded and failure is not tolerated.

History has confirmed that he was right to leave Celtic when he did, yet the theory that the grass is always greener might not be the case if Rodgers is offered the chance to move to Spurs or Arsenal this summer.

Taking Leicester beyond where they are might not be realistic, but Rodgers would be making a mistake if he believes that is a reason to move on.

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