Brendan Rodgers: Getting to the top the hard way
If there is an easy way to become the manager of a Premier League football club, then Brendan Rodgers has not taken it.
Forced to retire as a player at 20 because of a genetic knee condition, the Carnlough man turned to coaching potential professionals only a few years younger than himself.
By his own admission, it was a difficult and laborious path, a time when long hours away from home made leading an unfashionable team to the highest rung seem a long way off.
So when his Swansea team closed on victory at Wembley on Monday, Rodgers allowed himself a moment of reflection on how unlikely it had all once seemed.
"At 4-2 and 30 odd seconds to go - and I've never, ever done it before - my mind sort of wandered to my journey as a coach," he said after the game.
Brendan Rodgers factfile
- He was raised in Carnlough where he spent much of his youth playing Gaelic football and hurling
- As a young coach, he travelled around Europe and now speaks Spanish and Italian
- His son Anton plays for Chelsea's youth team and has represented the Republic of Ireland at U-17 level
- His nickname is Buck
"From my early 20s, working with kids, driving many hours, missing time with my family, all that emotion - the whole journey flashes through your mind."
Those sacrifices began to be rewarded with a post as head of youth development at Reading, the club where he had played his last game.
If that appointment with the Royals was a boost, then the subsequent arrival of a certain Portuguese manager at Chelsea was a rocket in the right direction.
Jose Mourinho was looking around for a new head of Chelsea's academy and reportedly head-hunted the Northern Irishman who had a growing reputation in youth football circles.
Born exactly 10 years to the day before Rodgers, Mourinho saw other characteristics which mirrored his own and gradually promoted the former Ballymena United man through the club.
"I like everything in him," Mourinho said. "He is ambitious and does not see football very differently from myself. He is open, likes to learn and likes to communicate."
Unfortunately for Rodgers, the beginning of his managerial career also had something in common with the self-proclaimed Special One, who had once left Benfica after only nine games in charge.
A spell at the helm at Reading, the club he had once played for and ironically the team beaten by Swansea in the Championship play-off, was ended with the sack after only a few months.
His latest success has come despite that setback and against a backdrop of difficult circumstances in his personal life.
He lost his mother, Christina, 12 months ago and his father Malachy travelled to Wembley on Sunday despite suffering from terminal cancer.
Rodgers has said he likes to think his team's performance reflects his father's work ethic.
"I used to help dad paint and decorate to earn pocket money. He installed in me the value of a hard day's work. He believes that leads to success in whatever you do. He's right," he said.
"He'd work from dawn to dusk to ensure his young family had everything. I think you can see his philosophies in my team."
His family's experiences with cancer have inspired Rodgers to eschew a lengthy summer break in favour of walking up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for charity.
With Swansea already installed as one of the bookmakers' favourites to be relegated next season, he knows he has another mountain to climb when he returns.