walls closing in? | 

The rebranding of Brendan Rodgers is facing its biggest test yet

Leicester boss among the favourites to get the axe

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers before a pre-season friendly match at the MKM Stadium, Kingston upon Hull. Picture date: Wednesday July 20, 2022.© PA

Kevin PalmerSunday World

IT seemed as if the Brendan Rodgers rebranding exercise was close to be being complete.

He was ridiculed as a joke character and compared to Ricky Gervais’ misguided alter-ego David Brent after a behind-the-scenes documentary on his time as Liverpool manager backfired – and it left Rodgers in need of a career reboot.

Trophy success at Celtic provided him with the new chapter in a story that reached a crescendo as he got Leicester fighting for top-four finishes with the giants of the Premier League, while also winning the FA Cup only last year.

The victory over Chelsea in that Wembley final 15 months ago, arguably, trumped any of his previous achievements, including promotion with Swansea in 2011 and his sizeable silverware haul with Celtic.

Links with moves to Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea appeared to confirm that Rodgers name was back at the top of the English football ladder.

Yet the Leicester boss heads into today’s Premier League opener against Brentford with a very different type of spotlight shining on him.

An eighth-place finish last season covered up some glaring holes in a campaign that failed to catch fire for the Foxes – and a glance at the odds over the managers likely to claim the unwanted prize of first place in the ‘sack race’ makes for uncomfortable reading.

Everton boss Frank Lampard went into this Premier League season as the strong favourite to be the first to lose his job, yet Rodgers was not far behind him and those clouds of doom remain hovering over both managers after they failed to win either of their opening

Arsenal's Gabriel Jesus (right) scores their side's second goal of the game during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date: Saturday August 13, 2022.© PA

two matches.

On too many levels, Leicester came up short last season, with their four away wins all term a record that was so poor it was even matched by relegated Watford.

Early exits in both domestic cup competitions were a disappointment – and if momentum was the driving force behind Rodgers career in the previous few years, it felt as if the 49-yearold was stuck in reserve for much of last season.

With goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel leaving Leicester last week and interest in key players Wesley Fofana, Youri Tielemans and James Maddison, the walls appear to be closing in on Rodgers at Leicester City.

Pessimism has been fuelled by the club’s failure to sign a single player in this summer’s transfer window – and Rodgers was candid in his confession that the club have not backed him in the transfer market with his requests so far.

“There’s been a lot of noise around the club, naturally because we haven’t signed a player, but when we go into every season, there are possibilities,” began the always-upbeat Rodgers.

“Internally, we’re very excited about the season – and hopefully the noise doesn’t affect the mentality of the stadium. We’re going to need them.

“We understand how the game works now. If players leave and you don’t bring in replacements, the fans react and there is an air of panic, but we don’t share that here.

Chairman Khun Top and Rodgers with FA Cup© The FA via Getty Images

“As far as I’m aware, there are no players coming in imminently, so the concentration has purely been on the players who are here.

“I think we can do well. Any manager will want new players in their squad. I felt this was a time we would need to improve. I respect the club’s position.

“The club have been outstanding in supporting me in my time at this club. Now this time, I need to support them. “It’s unfortunate. I don’t need to fight with anyone. I would have loved to improve the squad. There is time until the end of August if things change.”

When a club is refusing to release transfer funds, it’s often evidence that the hierarchy have some doubts about the long-term future of the manager making the request.

And that is quite a change of approach from a Leicester board that have told Rodgers he needs to sell members of his first-team squad before he is allowed to bring in much-needed new faces.

The scale of Leicester’s wage bill is also a factor in their budgetary caution, with Schmeichel’s exit evidence that some big earners will need to be sacrificed. Business

“We have to do some business out before we can get players in,” he confessed. “We just are not in the same position as some of the other clubs. Until that changes, I keep working with the players we have. We try to maximise their abilities – and if the club can do something in the market to help the team, we would want that.’

“Selling is two-way. Other clubs have to want the players, so it is a waiting game in some respects.

“Of course I want to improve the squad, I want to develop the squad, I said that midway through last year, but if it’s difficult financially. I really respect the club, so I don’t go to war with them.

“Hopefully we can improve the squad, but my honest opinion is that it’s not going to be the level I would have wanted. That’s just unfortunate.

“It was also off the field as well. We wanted to reset some of our work off the field and we have started in that process, which is great, but of course I want the strongest squad possible.

“If that’s not possible, then I will work with the players I have and we’ll continue to fight and work the very best we can.”

They are the words of a manager who is clearly frustrated with his lot and while he moved quickly to appoint Jonny Evans as his new captain to replace departed leader Schmeichel, Rodgers seems to be getting his excuses in early with these public comments.

While he has insisted that both Fofana and Maddison won’t be sold this summer, Leicester are clearly halting the ambition of a manager who has brought them so much success since his arrival from Celtic in February 2019 and that may well mean he is skating on thin ice.

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