February 26, 2019 / 2:08 PM / a month ago

Rodgers may be perfect choice as Leicester buck foreign trend

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Brendan Rodgers’ impending return to the Premier League as manager of Leicester City would appear to be a rare case of a club making the perfect appointment.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Europa League - Round of 32 Second Leg - Valencia v Celtic - Mestalla, Valencia, Spain - February 21, 2019 Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers before the match REUTERS/Juan Medina/File Photo

Rodgers is young enough, at 46, to have the hunger and desire to succeed, but he also has the experience from his time at Swansea City and Liverpool to ensure he is ready for what the Premier League can throw at a manager.

On Tuesday, Celtic gave permission for Rodgers to speak to Leicester and it is likely only a question of finalising personal terms before he takes over at the King Power Stadium.

Leicester are a club with a promising squad, including several of the players who produced the biggest upset in Premier League history with their title win in 2016 and some exciting younger talent.

Rodgers won’t face the instant pressure to win that is the fate of managers of the ‘Big Six’, but nor should he expect to be worried about the threat of relegation — a privilege afforded to few who take charge of teams outside of England’s elite.

That should allow him to focus on delivering the brand of entertaining, progressive football that made his name at Swansea, where he won promotion to the Premier League via the playoffs in 2011.

It will also give him a chance to answer the questions raised by the latter stages of his time at Liverpool, where he was unable to keep the team performing at the highest level after the bitter disappointment of missing out on the title in 2014.

Rodgers would be coming back to the English top flight after 2-1/2 seasons in Scotland with Celtic during which his side dominated the domestic competitions.

While the Scottish league marked a significant drop down in standards, his time in Glasgow did no harm at all to his career profile, especially given the way his team played appealing football.

The appointment would also be a rare example of a Premier League club showing faith in a British manager in an era where importing coaches is the dominant trend.

Of the top ten teams in the Premier League at the moment only 10th-placed Bournemouth have a British manager in Eddie Howe.

Indeed, there are only five British managers - a quarter of the total - operating in the English top flight at the moment: Howe, Chris Hughton (Brighton), Sean Dyche (Burnley), Neil Warnock (Cardiff City) and Roy Hodgson (Crystal Palace).

The man Leicester dismissed on Monday, Frenchman Claude Puel, showed once again that while Spaniard Pep Guardiola and German Juergen Klopp have brought so much exciting new thinking to the English game, a foreign name is no guarantee of success.

As a generation of solid, pragmatic English managers, such as Tony Pulis, David Moyes, Sam Allardyce and Alan Pardew, have lost their appeal, there was a danger that a younger generation of forward-thinking domestic managers would miss out on the chance to emerge.

Rodgers is by no means a typical British manager however — he had a modest playing career, mostly in non-league football after an injury hampered his early progress, and then spent time studying the approaches of coaches in Spain. He also speaks Spanish and Italian.

He was brought in to Chelsea’s academy after impressing then-manager Jose Mourinho before cutting his teeth in management with Watford and Reading.

The Leicester job does not have the prestige of his roles at Liverpool or Celtic, but it marks a perfect route for him to re-establish his reputation in England.

There is enough talent at his disposal to have the Midlands side competing for the ‘best of the rest’ slot in the Premier League and the challenges of the Europa League that come with that position.

And if Rodgers is still motivated, in part at least, by showing the big clubs what he is capable of, there is probably no better vehicle for such a task than the club which upset the established order so dramatically three years ago.

Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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