MICAH RICHARDS: Brendan Rodgers axing James Maddison for his Covid breach was a big call, but right… nothing hurts more than not playing. He can reap the reward and reach the FA Cup final
- Brendan Rodgers could have given Maddison, Choudhury and Perez with fines
- Rodgers could easily have put himself first and kept his squad at full strength
- It was one of the most impressive feats of management I’ve seen this season
Brendan Rodgers didn’t have to go down the route he did. He could have expressed his anger and simply hit James Maddison, Hamza Choudhury and Ayoze Perez with fines.
At the business end of the season, Rodgers could easily have put himself first and thought about getting the best possible result at West Ham last weekend. His chances of doing that would have been greatly increased with Maddison, in particular, in his starting line-up.
What Rodgers did last Sunday, however, was one of the most impressive feats of management I’ve seen this season.
Brendan Rodgers could have given Maddison (pictured), Choudhury and Perez with fines
The Leicester trio have all been dropped from the squad after breaking covid-19 protocols
As Leicester approach the point when their campaign could go one way or the other, my hope is that Rodgers’ big call gets a positive return.
I don’t intend to dwell on Maddison, Choudhury and Perez breaching Covid regulations. As a player, if you have made a mistake of your own doing you have to accept responsibility and face the criticism that comes your way. I’ve been there before and know what it’s like.
But the point of all this is the course of action Rodgers took in removing the trio from his squad for the trip to West Ham. That game carried huge importance for Leicester, so to deliberately make one of his most crucial players miss it was a big, big call.
Don’t kid yourselves that all bosses would do the same.
When there are targets on the horizon and prizes on the line, some managers would put themselves first and discipline second to ensure key men were available to help their team get the right result.
Rodgers, however, put his club first. Leicester have won admirers for the way they have conducted themselves. It all stems from the way the owners — inspired by the late Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, God bless him — have gone about their business.
Leicester’s title triumph in 2016 came out of the blue, but look at what they have done around it.
They promote young players, they scout and buy well, they listen to their fans and don’t ever take liberties in what they do. Not all owners are responsible — Leicester’s thoroughly deserve their plaudits.
Rodgers’ decision was one of the most impressive feats of management I’ve seen this season
Yet they are also ambitious and see a chance to get into the Champions League again. Rodgers is determined to deliver that target and some could say he put it in jeopardy by axing Maddison from a game his team needed to win.
Seasons can turn on the kind of defeat Leicester suffered at the London Stadium. Two weeks ago, I’d have said the Foxes were certainties to finish in the top four but back-to-back losses have enabled the pack to close and pressure is building.
West Ham aren’t going to go away. Chelsea are in excellent form. I look at Liverpool now and can see them taking 19 points from the final 21 available to them. If they put a run like that together, you would expect them to make the Champions League.
What if that 3-2 scoreline at the London Stadium proves to be the one where it all changed for Leicester? It doesn’t matter. Look at the bigger picture — Rodgers did the right thing.
I’ve always admired him, going back to when he was manager of Swansea and his teams played brilliant football.
I like how he always believes he can get the best out of players, how he can improve them and his commitment to an expansive style. I like, too, how he always finds the right words.
Rodgers is determined to deliver Champions League and some could say he put it in jeopardy
When it is time for Gareth Southgate to move on, I hope Rodgers is considered to be England’s next manager.
He will never back away from making a big call, and dropping Maddison at this stage could not have been bigger.
Rodgers was right when he said there is not much point fining players nowadays — if you want to punish them, you stop them playing. Nothing hurts more.
I remember when Manuel Pellegrini substituted me at half-time during an FA Cup tie that Manchester City were losing to Watford in January 2014.
Afterwards, I lost my temper in front of the whole squad and told Pellegrini exactly what I thought of the situation.
Pellegrini walked off and never said a word. For the next four matchday squads, my name was missing from the 18.
I hope Rodgers is considered to be England’s next manager after Gareth Southgate
There hadn’t been an explanation, so I went in to see him. He wasn’t a man who ever lost his temper, but his message could not have been clearer.
‘If you thought it was acceptable to speak to me like that in front of everyone, you were wrong,’ Pellegrini said.
I knew I’d crossed the line and upset the manager. I left that meeting desperate to make it up to him and I have no doubt Maddison will be feeling exactly the same in tomorrow’s FA Cup semi-final. He is a confident person but all he will be thinking before facing Southampton is: ‘let me score.’
The decision to drop Maddison would have eaten Rodgers up. He’d have been thinking about nothing else in the days before but I’m glad he stuck to his guns. I hope in the games that matter, Rodgers is rewarded for his right decision with the right results.
The rumours are yet to be confirmed but I’ve seen it reported that Alex Scott is going to be the new presenter of Football Focus.
It’s a show that has had a huge part in our culture. It was always on the TV when we were having our pre-match meals before 3pm kick-offs on a Saturday; it’s light-hearted, it’s always given coverage to lower league clubs and I was honoured when I got the opportunity to first appear on it.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Dan Walker several times. He’s a great guy, a brilliant presenter and really helped me settle when I was adjusting to life as a pundit. Whoever takes over from him on the show is going to have big shoes to fill.
If the rumours are true for Alex Scott on Football Focus, it is a much deserved opportunity
But if the links are correct, this is a much deserved opportunity for Alex. I’ve seen her commitment to work, having had the opportunity to work with her on both the BBC and CBS and her determination to be prepared and her understanding of the game is second-to-none. Any negativity around her possible appointment says more about the people airing those views. She would be a fantastic choice.
I have no doubt that she will flourish, if she is given the opportunity. It will be important that she creates her own style and she can’t let the scrutiny affect her and I don’t for one moment think she will let that happen. Should it be confirmed, I expect she will prove to be a terrific choice for a brilliant programme.
MICAH’S MAN OF THE WEEK
Nat Phillips has had an unenviable task coming into Liverpool’s team. No matter what he does, he is always going to be compared with Virgil van Dijk. That isn’t fair on a young lad and, at times, it has almost been impossible for him.
So I wanted to ensure he got the credit he deserved for his display against Real Madrid. Karim Benzema is one of the world’s best strikers but Phillips kept him quiet.
I’m not saying he’s going to be a Liverpool regular for 10 years – but he showed he can become a very good top flight defender.
Nat Phillips has an unenviable task coming into Liverpool’s team and did well against Benzema
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