Swansea City's family man Brendan Rodgers' Wembley way

By Peter ShuttleworthBBC Sport Wales
Brendan Rodgers with Swansea fans
Brendan Rodgers has become a fans' favourite at the Liberty Stadium

Brendan Rodgers' trip down Wembley Way will be more than just career justification but a poignant acknowledgement to his greatest inspiration.

Terminal cancer will not keep Rodgers' father Malachy away from Wembley when his son's Swansea City side face Reading in Monday's Championship play-off final.

The Swans boss lost mother Christina in 2010 and 12 months on, the 38-year-old Northern Irishman is proud his father will by his side for his "biggest day in football.".

Rodgers Sr planted the seed of "Total Football"external-link in his son's mind, a philosophy that has blossomed into Swansea's celebrated "passing with penetration" style with a work ethic the former painter and decorator can admire.

"Dad loved watching great football teams like Brazil," said Rodgers. "That stuck with me.

"I want to be entertained and my teams to play that way. I enjoy winning but I like to control how to win.

"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'd work from dawn until dusk to ensure his young family had everything. I think you can see his philosophies in my team."

The eldest grew up with his four brothers in the quiet and close-knit County Antrim harbour village of Carnlough where "everyone knew everyone" - a smaller version of Swansea, some say.

"I played Gaelic football and hurling but not football, except in the street, until 13," recalled boyhood Celtic fan Rodgers.

"But I followed football passionately especially when my cousin became a footballer. Nigel Worthington is now the Northern Ireland manager and I followed his playing career closely.

"I started playing football at 13 at St Patrick's College in Ballymena, the same school as the actor Liam Neeson.

"I was scouted by Manchester United at 14. I had chances to attend many clubs but Dad felt I should go to a few to see what suited best.

"United was my first club. I went during my holidays for 18 months. Ryan Giggs was then a few years below me but was being heavily tipped. However, I was never going to be what I wanted to be at United as there were so many good players."

That was Rodgers' first bold career decision - and cue more fatherly advice in 1989.

"I had also been to Luton and Reading," remembered Rodgers. "Dad liked the Reading scout Dennis Weir so wanted me to join them.

"A lot of Carnlough villagers stayed there for life, they're comfortable with their own people. That's fantastic but it wasn't me. I loved my community but I'm ambitious.

"I knew when I left at 16, if was to achieve the things I wanted then I'd never return. That was very sad.

"I loved Reading. The manager Ian Branfoot treated me like a son. It was a challenging time for me as I had left my family for an area where I hardly knew anyone."

The midfielder captained Reading's youth and reserve team and travelled with the first team but a succession of knee injuries led to another career choice.

"I suffered from a genetic knee problem that also prevented two of my brothers having professional careers," he recalled.

"Full-time training exposed the brittleness of our knee bones. I could've continued but would not have reached the level I desired so I made the conscious decision to retire from playing and coach.

"I helped the Reading academy and was comfortable teaching. I could demonstrate what I was asking players to do as I was intelligent and technically strong.

"I liked Dutch and Spanish football principles and how they could control games. I visited Barcelona, Valencia and Sevilla... gaining experience and broadening my coaching horizons."

Rodgers' talents were recognised by a coaching master when he was asked to join Jose Mourinho's Chelsea backroom staff in 2004.

Pupil and master share more than the same birthday. Both started coaching as young men, have a footballing vision and a man-management style to create team unity.

Rodgers, via Watford and Reading, has now helped take the prudent Swans, whose modest wage bill ensures a debt-free existence, to within one game of the £90m Premier League pot of gold in his first year.

"I know Dad is proud all five of us," he said. "And if I can get this team to the Premier League and bring a little happiness to him, that'd be great.

"Everyone in Carnlough is a Swansea fan now. The flags are out and many will come to the final."

Top Stories