MILK CUP ON RED ALERT

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New Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers won’t have long to wait for an invitation to visit this summer’s Milk Cup tournament.

Rodgers, who accompanied teams to the world famous youth competition in the past during his time at Chelsea, is a big admirer of the event.

Tournament chairman Victor Leonard revealed: “We had been hoping to involve Brendan in some capacity this summer but his schedule was pretty tight.

“I think his diary is going to be even busier now but that won’t stop us extending an invite to come back to his roots, if times permits.”

Rodgers played three times at the Milk Cup for Ballymena in the 1980s. He also introduced Chelsea to the Premier tournament in 2005.

“That visit broke new ground for us,” said Victor. “With Manchester United and Everton regularly here and having welcomed Liverpool in the past, it was important for us to secure another Premier League club.

Chelsea, with Scott Sinclair on board, reached the final in their first year, losing 1-0 to an impressive Barcelona side.

Victor added: “Chelsea felt it was even more beneficial for players to compete at Junior level and sent teams to see how the Under-15s would react to a tournament situation as part of their education.

“We are delighted that Brendan has taken another massive step in his managerial career with Liverpool.

“We wish him well and perhaps he will be tempted to come across and see his new club’s Juniors in action as the club is returning for the first time in several years.”

Rodgers, from Carnlough, also brought former Chelsea boss Avram Grant to the Milk Cup draw in Belfast back in 2008, just days before the Blues’ Champions League final against Manchester United in Luzhniki Stadium.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill has also passed his best wishes on to the new Reds boss.

“It really is a fantastic opportunity for Brendan and we’re all delighted for him,” said O’Neill.

“You have to take every chance which comes along at any stage in your coaching career and when you’re a younger manager, you need to even more so.

“But it isn’t easy. People will ask – should he have waited for longer, or spent another year at Swansea.

“It is a very, very tough decision to say ‘no, not at this moment’.

“He is obviously very capable of doing the job and he must realise that too. What he has done in the last two seasons at Swansea has been fantastic.”

Rodgers’ playing career was stalled when he was just 20 years old because of a genetic knee condition.

The Carnlough man was a Reading defender at the time, but had not made a single appearance for the club.

O’Neill added: “You see someone’s career as a player end so prematurely, and a coaching career start so early, but you can’t say it hasn’t worked for him.

“Brendan has put in an awful lot of hard work to get to where he’s got to.

“Will he bring the same football formula he has developed to Liverpool? Who knows?

“Brendan will approach the job with a level of common sense and recognise the expectations will be different. He will build his team in a similar mould.

“But he will be clever enough to realise that he needs to get the balance right between building an attractive team and an efficient team which gets results.”