IT'S EXTREMELY difficult to remain patient when you've been playing a waiting game for some considerable time . . . but Brendan Rodgers has warned Liverpool's expectant supporters that his bid to restore the club to its former glory will take time.
The early stages of the Rodgers revolution have had their frustrating moments, but that was always likely to be the case, with the Irishman at the helm committed to introducing his own brand of football and blooding so many young players this season.
It was symptomatic of Liverpool's frustrations that, after a promising run in which they had lost only once in eight matches, their bid to chalk up a third successive Premier League victory for the first time in 19 months brought only bitter disappointment.
In the countdown to the Christmas period, a rapidly-improving Aston Villa side caused a major surprise by running out comfortable 3-1 winners at Anfield to deflate some of the optimism that had been generated by their form over the previous month.
However, they got back on track in style on Saturday, demolishing Martin Jol's Fulham 4-0 at Anfield.
The outlook appears to be a lot brighter in the Premier League as a narrow victory over Southampton at Anfield earlier this month was followed by a late fightback at West Ham to snatch a 3-2 victory in the live televised match with two ex-Hammers, Glen Johnson and Joe Cole, getting on the score-sheet and a third one, Jonjo Shelvey, having a hand in the third.
Consistency is sometimes hard to achieve, however, when you are making the degree of changes which have been so evident at the start of this new era.
Full name: Liverpool Football Club
Chairman: Tom Werner
Manager: Brendan Rodgers
2011/12: Premier League (8th), FA Cup (runners-up), League Cup (winners).
Record transfer fee paid: £35m for Andy Carroll to Newcastle United, January 2011.
Record transfer fee received: £50m for Fernando Torres from Chelsea, January 2011.
Introducing the Gaffer
You have to admire the way Brendan Rodgers has tackled the unenviable task of replacing a living legend and reviving a sleeping giant over the past six months . . . even if results so far have merely confirmed the size of the job in hand.
Liverpool turned to one of the brightest young managers in the game when they appointed the Irishman to succeed Kenny Dalglish in May this year; someone with a clear football plan and the confidence to match his impressive qualifications.
That's perhaps not surprising when you consider that Rodgers had been preparing for such a day for almost 20 years and that a crucial part of his apprenticeship as a coach was to serve under the 'special one' Jose Mourinho during his time at Chelsea.
After a playing career which really ended before it had begun due to a genetic knee condition, the 39-year-old from Carnlough in Northern Ireland embarked upon a journey around Europe as he studied coaching techniques in Spain and Holland in particular.
Having worked under Mourinho as Academy head coach and then reserve team manager, his initial experiences of management were mixed ones as he guided Watford out of trouble, but then lasted only six months in charge of Reading when he moved there.
Although Rodgers was linked with a move to join the coaching staff at Manchester City, he accepted the offer to replace Roberto Martinez at Swansea City in 2010, which in itself was a big challenge after the highly-rated Spaniard had achieved so much success.
Undeterred by the size of that task though, he not only ensured that they became the first Welsh club to be promoted to the Premier League, via a play-off triumph over his former club Reading, he then established them in the top-flight, and did so in some style.
Boxing Day Fixtures
Everton v Wigan Athletic
Fulham v Southampton
Manchester United v Newcastle United
Norwich City v Chelsea
Queens Park Rangers v West Bromwich Albion
Reading v Swansea City
Sunderland v Manchester City
Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur (17:30)
STOKE CITY v LIVERPOOL (19:45)
All games kick-off at 15:00 unless otherwise stated.
Head to Head
League: 28 Stoke City wins; 55 Liverpool wins; 32 draws
FA Cup: 0 Stoke City wins; 5 Liverpool wins; 2 draws
League Cup: 0 Stoke City wins; 4 Liverpool wins; 1 draw
TOTAL: 28 Stoke City wins; 64 Liverpool wins; 35 draws
Last Five Encounters
Liverpool 0-0 Stoke City (Premier League) - 07/10/2012
Liverpool 2-1 Stoke City (FA Cup) - 18/03/2012
Liverpool 0-0 Stoke City (Premier League) - 14/01/2012
Stoke City 1-2 Liverpool (League Cup) - 26/10/2011
Stoke City 1-0 Liverpool (Premier League) - 10/09/2011
Stoke City win 23/10; Liverpool win 5/4; draw 9/4
Referee - Howard Webb
Howard Webb makes a swift return to the Britannia Stadium on Boxing Day... with his last visit being less than a month ago in City's 2-1 win over Newcastle United.
Webb was in charge for the dramatic victory as Jonathan Walters and Cameron Jerome both netted in the final ten minutes to turn the game around earn the Potters the three points.
The South Yorkshire official has overseen 18 games in all competition this season, with his most recent being Sunderland's 1-0 victory at Southampton on Saturday.
His last Liverpool match was their 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in November.
He has dished out 66 yellow cards and three reds so far this campaign.