Brendan Rodgers has been voted as the LMA Manager of the Year by his managerial peers and I for one believe he is well deserving of this accolade.
Crystal Palace's Tony Pulis and Sunderland's Gustavo Poyet would have pushed Rodgers extremely close, in fact either one of them would have been deserving of the award. But while it is arguable miraculous escapes from the bottom have occurred before, a team that has flirted with mid-table mediocrity for many years has never been able to sustain a title challenge the season after. For this reason alone, Rodgers has done something that has never been done in Premier League history and had to be rewarded.
In the past, teams like Newcastle United and especially Manchester City have made meteoric leaps to challenge for the title. For example, in the 2000/01 season Newcastle finished in 11th place but in the following season finished 4th. Like Liverpool, they achieved their success relying on a core of young exciting talent and played some swashbuckling football under then manager Sir Bobby Robson. Alan Shearer was the league's second highest scorer with 23 goals, whilst Laurent Robert made the most assists with 16. Eerily, Newcastle conceded nearly as many as Liverpool that season with 52. However, unlike Liverpool, Newcastle's title challenge fell apart just when the season was getting serious in March and ended up 16 points behind winners Arsenal.
On the other hand, Manchester City have achieved all their success by spending billions since the Mansour takeover in 2008. That season they came 10th, the following season they came 5th, then 3rd and eventually 1st. However, unlike Liverpool, this was a gradual improvement. In fact, given the billions spent, arguably poor managing kept them from rising quicker.
A quantum leap like Liverpool's from 7th to 2nd has never been done before and Brendan Rodgers needs congratulating for a job well done. His efforts are only made to seem more amazing as he has only spent a fraction of what champions Manchester City, 3rd placed Chelsea, 6th placed Tottenham and 7th placed Manchester United have spent.
In this sense, Brendan Rodgers reminded us what the essence of being a good manager is all about: coaching the players to be better. Under his tutelage, players like Henderson, Sturridge, Sterling, Flanagan, Coutinho Joe Allen and even Steven Gerrard have made massive improvements either through direct coaching or by being persuaded to play in a position previously thought to be alien, as a means of maximising their strengths and masking their weaknesses.
Hands up: who thought Coutinho could play as a central midfield without getting outmuscled? Who thought Gerrard could play as a defensive midfielder without jeopardizing his team with poor positioning? Who thought Sterling could play as the number 10? Who thought Flanagan was a better left back than most in the Premier League? Some of you may have said Gerrard and Sterling but certainly not the other two; yet, this level of thinking was not beyond Rodgers.
Unlike Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger and David Moyes, Rodgers has not been one dimensional. He has been flexible and it has allowed him to achieve what many thought was beyond his reach. His many changes in formation revealed a manager who revels when his back is against the wall.
The ultimate sign of this was his handling of the Luis Suarez affair. Tottenham in similar circumstances buckled and it ended up costing Andre Villas-Boas his job and Tottenham most of the £100 million they spent trying to replace Gareth Bale. Unlike Liverpool who benefitted by keeping their best player by having their best season in years, Tottenham will contemplate on what could have been as they play in the Europa League again next season.
After wanting to leave Liverpool only in the summer, Luis Suarez signed a contract in December and Brendan Rodgers was thought to be a major reason in why Suarez did so. Suarez believed in the project being built at Liverpool and wanted to be a part of what was to come in the future.
Therefore, whilst the work of Pulis and Poyet may have saved Crystal Palace and Sunderland for another season, the work of Rodgers has Liverpool set for many years to come, and that is why he won the LMA Manager of the Year award.