I met them both at the Stadium Bukit Jalil press box when the 2nd half started. Duty calls, you see. I was adamant that I spend the 1st half before with my family, eager to impress upon my two elder girls and their cousin sister what it meant to immerse themselves in the game that was being played that evening. The Mighty Reds were in town. And they were up against a select team of players chosen from the Malaysian Premier League, no more the minnows than the teams LFC had played so far in their Asian Tour this year. The 1st half bore witness to a magnificent thundering goal by the player of pre-season so far, Jordan Ibe. I was ready for more and so were the two other representatives from Anfield Index Malaysia, as we knuckled down to analysing the game like the amateurs that we were.
John Stephenson and Leroy Mah had begun this journey with me about a year back when we kicked off our inaugural podcast under the AnfieldIndex banner and tutelage of Gagan Tandon. We’ve been talking and recording our thoughts about the club, the manager, the players, from our local perspective, throughout the last 12 months while slowly but surely helping the AnfieldIndex channel grow steadily. And being given big shiny name tags brandishing the word ‘Media’ to cover this game was testament of how far AnfieldIndex has come along. But I’ll let the brash marketing department talk more about AnfieldIndex themselves on a separate platform. Most probably a pod on its own.
With great power comes great responsibility, says that old Parker man. So, we made it a mission to cover Brendan Rodgers’ post match press conference, and rather determinedly plotted what tough questions to pose to the manager. We rushed to the room designated for the press conference about two seconds after the final whistle was blown for end of the game, with the idea of securing the front row seats for our tough questions. We were ahead of the pack, which was good but which also made us doubt if we appeared too amateurish enough amongst other professional journalists. Journalists of whom we’ve only had the privilege of reading materials written by them. These doubts were cast aside when the video cameras were being set up rather urgently behind us like a Russian firing squad.
While we waited, impatiently, they came in. Faces we had barely recognised but by names we slowly unravelled who they were as they chatted amongst themselves. British journalists like Dominic King, James Carroll and even James Pearce. They had their notepads, hardly any jokes were made, it was serious business. It was probably inappropriate to reach out and introduce ourselves while they waited for Rodgers to make his grand entrance at any moment then. So we remained quiet and a little over awed.
Rodgers came in within the next couple of minutes, wearing a rather weary frown. He could recognise the familiar faces from the UK, that was evident immediately. He sat down with a slight hunch, looking rather intense as the relief from the humid heat outside slowly dried the sweaty moisture on his face. He answered his first question about Benteke rather curtly. Nothing much was given away. When it was indicated that it fair for questions from local journalists to be asked after a couple were already asked from the British ones, I raised my hand rather abruptly. My voice was coarse from the screaming and singing during the game when I was with my family earlier. But the question came out clearly. He understood it was about the relationships that he was to build with his new coaching staff during this trip as they prepared for the season ahead. I had posited that he would value strong relationships within his coaching team if he was to exorcise the demons of last season’s shambolic outcome. He answered rather obligingly, lecturing about leadership and why it was his leadership ethos to make those tough decisions of sacking his trusty lieutenants from last season. He then goes on to chart out the strengths of each of his new staff. O’Driscoll had the invaluable experience. Ljinders had the academy in the palm of his hands but also had the brains. Gary Mac had the respect or something to that effect. Rodgers stressed that it was important that he was challenged by these collective minds. Not only are their methods and knowledge important for this challenge, but more importantly they were to agree to disagree when it mattered, when strategising and training, making him reevaluate his methods and knowledge himself as they disagreed.
The answer was satisfactory to me from a fan’s perspective. I had believed that a major portion of blame for last season’s failure was to be put on Rodgers believing his own hype after challenging for the title only in his second season. And he believed his hype because nobody told him to take a step back and get his feet back on the ground. He wasn’t challenged. Building on my question, another question was asked from someone else if indeed it was his own decision to sack Marsh and Pascoe. He was straight to the point. It was purely his decision. This, again, was more than satisfactory to me. It was for all to see. There was no remorse, no regret exhibited. I wanted resoluteness from my manager, calculative and not emotional. This short answer gave me all that.
And before we knew it, the manager was shaking hands with Dollah Salleh, the appointed coach for the Malaysian Selected 11 team, Rodgers’ adversary for the evening whom managed a well deserved draw with the Reds. Our adventure would slowly ebb into the night as we got ready for our daily jobs the following week, not as professional podcasters or journalists but just everyday people living everyday lives.