O'Neill: Rodgers can make his mark
Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill has backed Liverpool counterpart Brendan Rodgers to run the club his own way after a turbulent start to the season.
The two Ulstermen will go head to head at the Stadium of Light tomorrow evening three days after Rodgers' problems at Anfield were put into perspective by an independent report into the deaths of 96 of the Reds' supporters at Hillsborough in 1989. It is certain to be an emotional occasion on Wearside, but once the whistle blows, the only concentration for the men on the field will be the three Barclays Premier League points at stake.
Rodgers' men currently sit in 18th place in the table having taken just one point from their three games to date, albeit from reigning champions Manchester City and with their new manager coming under pressure in some quarters with the Andy Carroll debacle still a topic for debate.
But O'Neill said: "Brendan obviously has his style, which he brought to Swansea - I say brought to Swansea, it might have been there in the first place, but he certainly enhanced it. "If I say so, their start to the season under [Michael] Laudrup now is maybe a continuation of that work. "People can tinker with it whatever way they want, but it's worked very well. "On the back of that, he has gone to Liverpool and obviously wants to stamp his authority - or his mark, rather than authority, perhaps - on Liverpool Football Club. Obviously, that's what you want to do as a manager. "But I don't think he's going into it with eyes closed. He would have had a number of meetings there with the owners of the football club. He must have agreed to the way in which they want to work. "I believe there's a fly-on-the-wall documentary - I haven't seen it, so I really can't comment on it other than some of the reviews that people have made about it in the newspapers. It couldn't, maybe, have been done without his consent. "But whatever way he is doing it, it's entirely up to him."
Winger Adam Johnson is battling to be fit after returning early from England duty with a thigh problem, but fellow midfielder David Meyler will hope for an opportunity after confirming his return from two serious knee injuries by making his first start for the Republic of Ireland against Oman in midweek. Rodgers, meanwhile, is confident teenager Raheem Sterling can handle his meteoric rise and believes it sets an example to the club's other youngsters.
The 17-year-old received a surprise call-up for England's World Cup qualifier against Ukraine earlier this week after a number of good performances for his club. Rodgers had voiced his concerns previously about over-exposing the youngster but believes Sterling can cope with the additional focus.
"I got the call from Roy (Hodgson) and he explained the reasons for it," said the Reds boss. "He feels he is one for the future and it was an opportunity for Raheem to get a sense of what he can achieve in the next few years. "He knows how much work he has to do to get to that level on a consistent basis but the strides he has made for a 17-year-old have been fantastic. "We have to keep it in perspective and focus on his development and hopefully in the years to come he can progress and become a very good player for England. "He is very level-headed and I have been really impressed by his mentality and it is the job of people who surround him just to support him.
"As soon as he got the call-up I rang his agent straight away and said 'Make sure you're not coming up here in a hurry'. "There is a plan mapped out for him and I think people know he is in a good place here. "The job for the manager is to pick the right opportunity and he has come in and done very well but taking them out at the right time is as important as putting them in."
Left-back Jose Enrique's knee injury will be assessed ahead of the trip. The Spaniard has been training this week after the recurrence of a problem which has dogged him since the start of the season. Midfielder Joe Allen has recovered from illness which disrupted his international duty while Rodgers is confident Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates will be fine after international duty having travelled back from South America.