By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun
6:14 PM EDT, July 3, 2012
For decades, Liverpool soccer fans at the team's 120-year-old stadium, Anfield, have been singing their adopted anthem, "You'll Never Walk Alone."
Brendan Rodgers, who was named the team's new manager June 1, is hoping that the partisans of the former English Premier League power stay true to the words that were penned nearly 70 years ago by the legendary songwriter Oscar Hammerstein.
Rodgers and "The Reds," as Liverpool is known because of the color of its home jerseys, will start walking together during a summer U.S tour, including a friendly against rival Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur, on July 28 at M&T Bank Stadium.
The tour is the first step toward a rebuilding process to bring Liverpool back into the upper echelon of English soccer — and a berth in the prestigious Champions League that includes the top four finishers in the Premier League. Liverpool finished eighth last season, its worst performance since 1993-94.
As a result, team owner John Henry, who also owns the Red Sox, made a similar move to the one he made after Boston blew a nine-game lead for the wild-card spot and lost to the Orioles on the final night of the 2011 season.
Just as Henry fired Terry Francona, he fired Kenny Dalglish, a former Liverpool star in his second tour as team manager.
Though Henry said he didn't "expect miracles overnight" in hiring Rodgers, who previously managed Swansea, he said that the fan base was excited about the move. In Swansea's promotion to the Premier League last season, Rodgers led the team to a respectable 11th-place finish.
"He was the first choice unanimously among them [the fans]," Henry told reporters who cover the Premier League.
Rodgers will not be the only new manager on the pitch in Baltimore later this month. Tottenham announced Tuesday that it had hired former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas to replace Harry Redknapp, who resigned last month after four years.
Tottenham finished fourth in the standings last season, but lost its spot in next year's Champions League after Chelsea won the Champions League. Chelsea turned its season around after Villas-Boas was fired after only eight months on the job.
Rodgers, 39, said in interviews with the British media that he was attracted by "the history" of a team that was once among the world's elite. As recently as 2008-09, Liverpool finished second to perennial power Manchester United. But the team has fallen sharply the past three seasons, leading to Dalglish's dismissal.
"For me [the attraction], is to defend the principles of this great club, offensive football with tactical discipline, and to retain the values of the club," Rodgers said.
Rodgers said that he is well aware of the frustration among the team's fans, but hoped they could stay patient.
"It has been over 20 years since they won the title," he said. "We might not be ready for the title but the process begins today. It's a new cycle, and that is something that we will work towards in the years to come."
One of the team's former stars who played with Dalglish at Liverpool said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun prior to Rodgers' hiring that whoever got the job needed the support of the fans and media.
"We all have to help each other," said Ian Rush, who still serves as the club's Soccer Schools ambassador as well as analyst on the BBC and Sky Sports. "I'm sure the owners will get the right man in charge and then what we have to do is get behind that person to try to make the club successful again."
While some question whether having American-based owners can work over the long haul in the Premier League, Rush doesn't think there's anything wrong with having owners, or even a manager, from outside the country.
Manchester City, which won its first English Premier League title this season in 34 years, is owned by a group from the United Arab Emirates and is coached by Italian Roberto Mancini.
"It's an international game now," Rush said. "We just have to get the right person and give him time. He could be young and let him gain that experience or we could get an experienced manager and get behind him."
There has been speculation that Liverpool has been hurt in recent years by more than its financial woes that forced former owner Tom Hicks (also known for being owner of the Texas Rangers when it went into bankruptcy) to sell to Henry's group that included Red Sox chairman Tom Werner.
The recent season included only six home wins at Anfield and an eight-game suspension of Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez for repeatedly calling a Manchester United player a racially insensitive slur. There was also speculation that a lack of African players on the roster has hurt Liverpool.
Asked if the lack of racial diversity has hurt Liverpool, Rush said, "No I don't think so. I think it's just their home performances. Liverpool can beat any team in the world on a day. They beat Manchester United, Manchester City.
"What they have to do is learn to beat the so-called lesser teams. What happens is that teams come to Liverpool, they're game as well. Whether they're playing Manchester United or Manchester City or Swansea, they have to go into the game with the same attitude."
Rush believes that Manchester City's championship this season is good for the league despite some who think the team bought its way to a championship similar to the way that the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004.
"You cannot buy history," Rush said. "What Manchester City will find out over the next few years is that they're in the same league as Manchester United and Liverpool were. Teams will be game against them next season. Everyone wants to beat them."
Werner, the team chairman, said that Rodgers will change the style of Liverpool.
"In Brendan we have acquired a very exciting and talented and young manager," Werner said. "He's a forward-thinking coach at the forefront of a generation of young managers and will bring to Liverpool attacking, relentless football."
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