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Tuesday 22 August 2017

Ronnie Whelan: John Henry must trust the manager he picked

Blackburn manager Gary Bowyer and Brendan Rodgers before kick off
Blackburn manager Gary Bowyer and Brendan Rodgers before kick off

It's time for John Henry and the men who own Liverpool to take a serious look at themselves and ask an important question.

Why did everyone close to the club hold their breath when they saw Martin Skrtel stretchered off against Blackburn?

Skrtel has been central to Brendan Rogers recovery since November; central to the stability of a defence which has helped Liverpool drag themselves up the table and into a challenging position for Champions League football.

The thought which instantly registered in my head as he crumpled to the ground was how long would he be out for? Put simply, Rodgers doesn't have anyone else.

Rodgers has had one run at the title based on Luis Suarez's energy and goals and has now produced a very well plotted course away from the cul de sac Liverpool drove into in November.

Last season's effort arrived on a wing and a prayer and ultimately, Manchester City had a better squad, better players and were in familiar territory.

That's why it was so hard to suspend disbelief and climb aboard the bandwagon. I believed that Liverpool had too few players to do anything at the start of last season and that squad depth and quality would be a problem.

I just didn't count on Suarez and Daniel Sturridge forming the dream partnership and Steven Gerrard lifting himself to a level where anything seemed possible.

We all know what happened during the summer but for the third season in a row, Liverpool's dealings in the transfer market left the club short on experience and let's be honest, talent.

Last July was a disaster, Sturridge got injured early and once again, squad depth and transfer dealings were the big issue.

The point I'm trying to make should be obvious by now. This man has twice produced unlikely results and without the kind of resources he needs to do the job properly.

Surely it is time now for John Henry and his pals to really trust their man and their own judgement and do what he asks when the transfer market opens up.

On a daily basis, I see Liverpool touted as a possible new home for a bewildering list of players. Most of it is nonsense but there's always a part of me that is hoping against hope that some of the juicier gossip is actually true.

I would love to read that Tony Kroos has decided to come to Anfield and have that confirmed in July with a signing ceremony. It would be fantastic to see a class act or six like that set up camp on Merseyside so that when August rolls around, Rodgers is playing from a full deck.

Against Blackburn yesterday, the problem with squad depth was apparent. They defended well, sure, but Liverpool should be battering a team like Blackburn at home in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

When Rodgers needed something off the bench, he had Mario Balotelli. Remember, this is the player he didn't want and told us as much back in July.

I've stopped thinking about Balotelli unless I see him these days and I think the Kop is the same. He has been judged and rejected and he did that to himself.

Because he couldn't deliver a breakthrough goal, Liverpool have an extra match and further demands on a squad already stretched thin. The transfer committee at Anfield doesn't work and that is plain to see. Three seasons in a row Rodgers has been short on depth and strength so maybe it's time to disband that exclusive group and do what the manager asks.

Rodgers has earned the right to make calls without being shadowed. Henry should meet with him the day after the season closes and say "Right, who do you want"? In fact, it should be happening now.

Last week, Liverpool announced a return to profit after seven years of looses and in many people's minds, that put a full stop behind the disastrous Gillett and Hicks era and suggested a brighter future ahead.

The club is on a firm financial footing again and has been cleared of financial fair play infractions by Uefa so there should be no problem in tracking down and signing players who will have an immediate impact on the squad.

Rodgers deserves that kind of support from his employers.

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