Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists he has no regrets over comments made about referee Lee Mason that landed him with a fine of eight thousand pounds.
The Football Association handed out the fine on Thursday after Rodgers accepted a misconduct charge.
The Reds boss described Mason’s performance during the 2-1 Premier League defeat at Manchester City on Dec. 26 as “horrendous.” Rodgers also argued that the Bolton-based referee lived too close to Manchester to be given the game.
The former Swansea boss was angry that Mason wrongly ruled out a first-half Raheem Sterling goal for offside, while he also believed the referee should have awarded a penalty late on after a challenge by Joleon Lescott on Luis Suarez.
Rodgers was deemed to have breached FA rule E3 (1), which relates to any comments that question a referee’s integrity or imply bias.
Asked if he had any regrets about his comments, he said: “No. The only reason I didn’t challenge it [the charge] was because I didn’t want anything getting in the way of what we’re trying to do here. It would just have prolonged the issue. All I want is for us to be focused on our football.”
Rodgers insists that he never intended to question Mason’s integrity, and that he was merely confused by the decision to give the game to a referee from Bolton, which is 16 miles from City’s Etihad Stadium.
He added: “My feeling hasn’t changed. I obviously accept the punishment that comes. I’m not one who is the enemy to officials. My history will show that. Since I’ve been in the game, I’ve always supported and encouraged officials. My behaviour towards officials and towards the authorities has always been as such.
“Of course I was disappointed after the game. I was disappointed with the outcome, considering my history, as all I was doing was speaking honestly. In no way was I ever questioning the integrity of the referee. I was talking about the logic. And I think facts and other appointments would prove me right, I’m sure.”
Rodgers wants to turn his attention to Sunday’s Premier League trip to Stoke, as Liverpool bid to cement their place in the top four.
Centre-back Daniel Agger will be out for up to four weeks with the calf injury sustained during last Sunday’s 2-0 FA Cup third-round win over Oldham. Jon Flanagan remains out with a hamstring injury picked up just before Christmas, while fellow full-back Jose Enrique continues to recover from knee surgery.
But striker Daniel Sturridge is set to return from an ankle injury suffered in late November, while defender Mamadou Sakho is fit again after picking up a hamstring problem during the 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on Dec. 29.
Rodgers said: “Daniel Sturridge has been training this week and is looking very well. Young Sakho trained today, so he looks fine to be in the squad for the weekend. Jon Flanagan’s still got a wee bit of time to go. Jose Enrique’s still out for a bit.
“But apart from that, we’ve got a couple of wee niggles that we’ll have to look at over the next 24 hours, but we’ll certainly have one or two back.”
Rodgers was cagey as to whether Sturridge would definitely be involved on Sunday, but he believes the striker will slot back in quickly when he does return.
The 24-year-old, signed from Chelsea for 12 million pounds last January, missed most of preseason after damaging ligaments in his right ankle while playing for England against the Republic of Ireland in May, but bounced back to score six goals in his first five appearances of the new campaign.
Rodgers hopes for another quick start when Sturridge returns from his latest injury, which was to the left ankle this time.
He said: “Daniel missed nearly all of preseason, came back in having only trained for 10 days or so, and started off the season in outstanding form. The make-up of his body is really good. He doesn’t put on weight. He’s looked after himself really well, and he looks really good fitness wise.
“But we’ll assess that over the next 24 hours. We don’t have to rush him. We want to make sure he’s ready to make an impact over the second half of the season.”