McManaman exclusive - Man City must not lose against LiverpoolMar 30 | 3 min read
Non-negotiables with Brendan Rodgers - "Courage has always been very important to me"
We sat down with the Leicester manager to discuss the key coaching values and ideas he won’t compromise on.
Despite being relatively young in managerial terms, Brendan Rodgers has already amassed a vast amount of experience at the age of 49.
From guiding Swansea to Premier League promotion and winning trophies galore with Celtic to being sacked by Reading and Liverpool, the Leicester manager has had his fair share of peaks and troughs, but through the highs and lows, he has aimed to stay true to a set of core principles.
Watch every Premier League TV game on BT TV
With our sport packages offering BT Sport, the NOW Sky Sports Membership and Prime Video, you won't miss a second of the live action.
As part of a series delving into each Premier League manager’s values, Rodgers stresses the importance of outlining his vision to the players clearly and staying optimistic when the team is going through a difficult period.
In a wide-ranging interview, the Northern Irishman also touches on the influence of "unofficial mentors" throughout his life and picks out players he has coached who epitomised his definition of courage.
To kick us off, what's your first non-negotiable?
Respect. It's very important, not just in professional life but in social life. It's respecting the differences that we all have and that not all of us are the same or have the start point, but still, in everything that we do, we can offer the respect in our behaviour.
Is that idea of respect most challenged when you're going through difficult periods on the field?
It always is. It's easy when things are going well, but I think respect is a behaviour that can always be there, despite the ups and downs.
There have been various moments in my life where a number of my values are have challenged, but respect is something that costs nothing and means a lot to people.
In terms of respect, does that extend to saying hello to everyone when you enter the building and showing respect to everyone at the club?
Yeah, absolutely. From a personal perspective, it's shaking people's hand when you see them in the morning, saying good morning or listening to the opinions of other people. Simple things. Growing up in modern times, what you would say were the simple values in life have subsided somewhat from a social perspective, so I think it's very important to carry around those [values].
What's the second non-negotiable you feel is essential?
Responsibility, that you take accountability. I've always felt that taking that responsibility and just knowing that if something doesn't work out or it's not quite right, I don't need to blame anyone else.
I can look no further than myself, which is why I tend to try to not let my own fate be in the hands of others, but I also like to extend that to other people, so that we all understand the nature of being accountable.
In a difficult situation, like when you took over Leicester in 2019, do you go in and feel a responsibility for what's gone before, even though it wasn't your responsibility at the time?
You respect what's gone before and then you take on the responsibility when you take over.
When you go into any club, the job is to try and influence players to play how you want them to play, then you take on that responsibility in order to share your vision with them and convince them to work how you want them to work.
If it doesn't work out, then that responsibility's on me. I'm the manager, I get paid for results and if results don't happen or they're not consistent, that's on the manager, so I'm more than happy to take that responsibility, but it's also important that within the professionalism of players and people that they take on that responsibility to be the best that they can be.
I am the type of person who will learn from everyone and I will do until my last breath
- Brendan Rodgers
How important have you found it to surround yourself with people who can mentor you?
Many people that I've worked with, they've been unofficial mentors for me. I am the type of person that will learn from everyone.
I've had many unofficial mentors that have been great for me that wouldn't even know that they were influencing me, so that's something from my early career that I've always done and I will do until my last breath. I'm a learner, I'll continue to learn and I take that responsibility to learn.
Are there any obvious examples of mentors that you can cite?
When I first got into coaching, there was a guy called John Stephenson, who is now head of football operations at Blackpool.
John was very influential for me as a young coach. When I joined Reading, he was the centre of excellence manager there and the head of youth, and he was excellent. Strategically, he was one of the best in the world, so I learnt a lot from him in the early stages of my coaching career. He never ever felt he was a mentor I'm sure, but for me he was that unofficial mentor that I learnt a great deal from.
What would you have as your third non-negotiable for management?
Courage. Courage is very important. Courage to go with your own convictions and how you want to work.
That's something that's been very important, especially early on in my career because I was a young guy who'd never had a big playing career. I was having to convince people without that playing career of the quality of my work and how I could work, so I needed to have that courage, and part of courage I always think is vulnerability.
That value for me growing up and searching for success in my profession, having that was a key element, I felt.
Courage also translates to playing style. How do you maintain the faith in what you're doing when the results aren't appearing straightaway?
You need to have that belief. In Swansea's case [when Rodgers was manager in the Premier League], that was a prime example.
When I arrived there, there was lots of noise about 'you can't get promoted from the Championship playing that style of football', and then obviously the year we got promoted was the year after Blackpool went up with a fantastic style and got relegated, so when we arrived in the Premier League, everyone was saying 'you won't be able to do it, you see what happened to Blackpool', but I was totally convinced and we were able to give the players the courage to continue to play.
We hadn't scored in the first three games, so everything was pointing towards us not being able to work in the style we wanted to, but thankfully we were able to stay in the league [finishing 11th] and we made many friends because of the level of football that we played and when I look back, I take great pride in that.
How have some of the best players you've coached displayed courage?
The courage in players I always like to see is, for defenders, people will look at guys that put their body on the line, but courage for me is also having that ability to take the ball when the pressure in a game is right up at its highest level.
The likes of Joe Allen and Steven [Gerrard], these are guys who will take the ball. Leon Britton - who was fantastic at Swansea - would always take the ball under pressure. Scott Brown at Celtic. Whichever competition he was in, whether it was the Scottish Premiership or the Champions League, he was always ready to take the ball, so that was a great sign of the courage of these players, as well as the guys with the physical qualities like Wes [Morgan] and Fuchsy [Christian Fuchs] and these guys, who put their body on the line.
How important is courage in introducing your style of play to the team and convincing the players that you're the right man to lead them?
I've always gone in with a clear vision of how I wanted to work. That stabilises players so they're very clear on what their role is, and I then offer encouragement and reinforce lots of the positive elements.
I don't lose my optimism too easily - I'm very optimistic for people and for players - so it's being clear and giving clarity around your vision and how you see it, then being able to manage players on a daily basis in order to help them develop, and then also when it's not going so well, how to reassure and reconnect with them for them to pick up their confidence again. It's a way to lead and it's a way to work.
Finally, do you have a fourth non-negotiable that you can pick out?
The fourth one would be unity. I always think, and especially in the profession that I'm in, that unless you're unified, unless you can create that, it's very difficult to have success.
Even as a leader, you lead and a lot of times that command element of it is lonely, but you have to be able to reconnect with people and be together, and if you can have that unity as a team, as a club, then of course that will really help your journey.