Rodgers-Suarez spat a tempest in a teacup

Posted by Kristian Walsh

On the afternoon before the snow started to free-fall upon Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers fashioned a storm of his own at Anfield Thursday. The tempest surrounding Luis Suarez and his glorious imperfections had all but ceased - yet here came the Northern Irishman, the modern-day Prospero, to breathe fresh life into it. Suarez admits to diving; Rodgers chides him publicly. There's plenty of breath left still.

- Macintosh: Suarez paints target on himself

But perhaps Rodgers had little choice. It was, after all, Suarez who this week decided to talk to South American media about a dive against Stoke City that occurred three months previous, much like how he spoke to Uruguayan television show RR Gol in the summer about his spat with Patrice Evra just as tempers began to cool. If only his timing off the pitch was as impressive as his timing on it, with Suarez seemingly waiting until the last possible moment to take his scythe-like words to the healing wounds.

Not that Suarez should be chastised for his honesty in interviews. It is refreshing to see such openness in an era where robotic sound bites are the best to be hoped for; it is heart-warming to tear back the metal and see something more than wires. But there can be no denying he likes to talk, his mind bursting out from the ropes of conformity that bound it. He is fully aware what people say of him, yet he continues to give ammunition for the head-shaking and tongue-wagging football fraternity. Maybe he simply doesn't care.

He has a lot in common with his manager in that respect, but yet one key difference protrudes: while Liverpool supporters can generally accept - and even apotheosize - Suarez for his visceral verbosity to the foreign media, the words of Rodgers closer to home bring little else but admonishment.

The narrative surrounding Rodgers’ propensity to talk was penned well before his words on Suarez’s diving. At first, it was said with a humorous inflection. After the sullen, dry nature of Kenny Dalglish, and seeing how easily he was turned upon, many were open to someone who liked to espouse the English language with a loquacious demeanour. He was even widely praised for his first press conference as Liverpool manager, impressing with the clarity and honesty of his thoughts, as well as a few neat, emotive phrases.

But humour became worry; worry became embarrassment. How things change, mainly after his ill-advised, unfortunate billing in the fly-on-the-wall Fox documentary "Being Liverpool".

According to some, he no longer likes to talk, but simply talks too much and too clichéd, like the reincarnation of David Brent from BBC's "The Office". When answering simple questions, as is his duty as a Premier League manager, he would be better to stay mute - in fact, he should tape his mouth shut, stand up and exit the room promptly, never to utter a word to anybody ever again. The tide has turned and the tone has changed when analysing Rodgers’ verbal exchanges with the media.

And analyse they do. There can be no question Rodgers is sometimes too florid when talking in public; his words last month before their game against Queens Park Rangers, likening his squad’s progress to a cookery course, were a simile too far. But when every single sentence is scrutinised and forensically examined for such frivolities, it will happen. If you search for excrement in a bed of gold, you merely have a shiny pillow to rest your head.

So it has proven again with his latest press conference. Hysteria drips down to the masses as the storm begins to swirl. After being asked on the comments his striker made, Rodgers said:

"I've seen the comments late last night and this morning and I think it's wrong. Certainly from our perspective it is unacceptable. It will be dealt with internally so there are no issues there. It's [diving] not something we advocate here.”

It is time to find the magnifying glass and solve this riddle. When asked his views on his player diving, he responded by saying it was unacceptable. If he says the opposite, he becomes an advocate of diving and would create an even bigger problem for the club. The notion of club management standing up for their players irrespective of public perception, borne out of a bizarre desire to create an us-versus-the world mentality, should have fled last year with Suarez’s eight-game suspension.

Rodgers does have the option of saying nothing, of course - and most of Rodgers’ detractors will take this as their preferred option, if only to hammer home the laboured nail of him being far too talkative. But in the modern football world, no comment is as bad as any, particularly where Suarez is the story. Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert gave 22 no-comment answers about Darren Bent’s future at Villa Park in November; he still refused to take the hint, even after the first 21, that the press pack will hunt together to procure their meat.

For Rodgers, refusal to answer would but merely delay the inevitable; it would merely delay another barrage of criticism towards the manager by certain supporters for another indiscretion.

This is all conjecture, of course. Rodgers could have refused to comment and nothing further might have been said. But what also is conjecture is the impact this will have on the playing squad, and in particular, Suarez. If Rodgers talks too much, then he also talks too honestly, and if he says Suarez has understood the manager’s stance, then it is likely to be so. If Rodgers says him, Suarez and the club move on, then this tempest is limited to nothing but a teacup.

Perhaps Rodgers made a mistake in discussing internal matters externally - but then, a football club being annoyed at their player admitting to diving is hardly noteworthy. Perhaps Suarez made a mistake in admitting something that would cause such commotion.

But the biggest mistake both unquestionably made was giving the trite, trademarked diving debate more gravitas than it deserves. That it was Suarez and Rodgers walking over trodden ground - and not Robert Huth and Tony Pulis after the former trod all over the Uruguayan on that same afternoon - tells the tale completely. In this country, professional integrity is valued much higher than personal well-being; so it is again, and so it will always be.

But of all the mistakes made, the biggest one is being made by some Liverpool supporters, who use such incidents to vilify Rodgers. Whether it is disagreement with his tactics, the players bought or just Rodgers’ stature as a manager overall, some do not see him fit as a Liverpool manager, yet cannot bring themselves to fully disparage him. Instead, they snipe over his words and mock his manner.

There is a lack of respect apparent from the gallery, though not within the corridors of Anfield. Regardless of what was said, it is clear Suarez respects Rodgers, and Rodgers respects Suarez; the celebration at Goodison, with a smiling Rodgers standing over an elated Suarez, is not an easy one to distort. That is all that truly matters. Let your indulgence set them free.

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