Rijul Sharda, the Liverpool crest tattooed to his right forearm, bellowed the chant with pride.
“Bren-dan Rod-gers!” the 20-year-old Liverpool fanatic shouted, as his favorite club’s manager stepped out of the Red Sox’ dugout and onto Fenway, the Football Pitch, on Tuesday afternoon. “Bren-dan Rod-gers!”
No one joined him, so he went all in.
“Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool, we’re on our way to glory! Build the team like Shankly did and kids will have a story!” Sharda roared, standing from his seat and honoring legendary Reds manager Bill Shankly.
Some people looked at him quizzically. Others paid no attention. Sharda sank back in his chair and wondered why none of the other supporters watching Liverpool’s training session chanted with him.
“If you start it,” he said, “you have to finish it. You can’t stop in the middle.”
Sharda, a student at India’s University of Delhi who’s been following Liverpool since 2010, is on a nine-city tour of the United States. His parents have already returned to India.
But when Sharda found out that Liverpool would be playing AS Roma at Fenway on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., he arranged a separate flight home, so he could stay longer and watch the Reds live for the first time in his life.
He’ll only miss a week of class, he said.
Such is the environment of zealous support for the club, especially now. Rodgers, hired in June 2012, has piloted a new era of success for the storied club, which was founded in 1892 and has not won a Premier League title in the league’s 22-year existence.
Last season, the Reds almost did. They finished second, two points behind Manchester City, and scored 101 times, two shy of the league record for goals in a season. It was the closest they’ve come to winning the Premier League championship, which would have been their 19th league title overall but first since 1990.
Rodgers, a soft-speaking 41-year-old, has instilled hope.
“There’s real excitement going into this season,” the manager said before Tuesday’s training session. “We’ve qualified for the Champions League. We went close on the title. I’m really excited about the players that we’ve brought in — young players with great profiles to play how we want to play. And that will allow us to go on, and hopefully continue to progress.”
Liverpool exceeded expectations last season by finishing runner-up and securing its first Champions League berth since 2010. Mercurial striker Luis Suarez scored 31 goals, most in the league, and ageless captain Steven Gerrard continued his reign of the midfield with an EPL-leading 13 assists. Now, Rodgers is tasked with replicating, or surpassing, last season’s success, and he’ll have to do it without Suarez.
The Uruguayan enigma, who was suspended for nine games and banned from all soccer-related activities for four months after biting an opponent in this summer’s World Cup, signed with Barcelona on July 11. Rodgers said Liverpool, which has backed Suarez since he joined the club in 2011, has no bitterness over the forward’s departure.
“Luis, in my two years at the club, has been sensational in his game,” Rodgers said. “Of course, there’s been issues, which is well-documented. But it’s in the past really. He was a brilliant player for us. For me, I will always see him as a good man and a good friend. He gave everything to Liverpool.”
The march forward begins Wednesday at Fenway. Rodgers’s roster features veterans such as Gerrard and right back Glen Johnson, auspicious young attackers Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, and new signings Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Emre Can and Lazar Markovic.
Rodgers, who joked that he was “two-stone heavier” when Liverpool last played at Fenway in 2012, said the game will allow him to bask in his club’s rapid ascent.
“It was the start of a journey that’s been incredible the last couple of years,” he said. “To come back here with the team allows us to sit and reflect on the two years that we’ve had.”
Sharda will be there, of course, likely chanting and no doubt displaying his right-forearm tattoo, which at Monday’s public training session Sturridge signed, photographed, and posted to his Twitter account.
“That,” said Sharda, who will return to India on Thursday, “made the US trip worth it.”Rob Harms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @harms__way.