Oldham Athletic and the FA Cup carry painful connotations for Brendan Rodgers after the League One side defeated Liverpool 3-2 in last season's fourth round. The "footballing gods", as the Liverpool manager put it, have conjured a repeat for the third round and for the first time pitted Rodgers against his son, Anton, who joined Oldham as a player last summer. The pair met up before Sunday's match at Anfield to discuss the tie, the midfielder's upbringing and a stressful year for the Rodgers family off the pitch.
First of all, your reaction to the draw?
Brendan Rodgers I was in the house watching a game on TV when I checked my phone and saw all these texts from [Oldham's manager] Lee Johnson and the chairman of Oldham [Simon Corney] and realised we must have got them in the draw. It is incredible, something that may never happen in a lifetime.
Anton Rodgers I sent a text to my dad but didn't get an answer. I think he was swerving my calls. I didn't believe it at first, I thought it was too good to be true. I was with my son when I finally got hold of him and we had a bit of banter.
BR I was telling him that we were the highest scorers in the Premier League last year, how Anfield is a fortress and that I am looking forward to seeing him. He is a wonderful young player and terrific talent. Anfield will suit him.
Anton, has it been more difficult in terms of your own career to have a high-profile father in football?
AR I've always had to work hard for whoever I've played for. I've had that all the way coming through because my dad has been the head of the academy or a coach. He's always been someone the other players look up to. You get stick with that and I've learned to deal with it. It's not a problem. I've always seen it as a positive. My dad has helped me.
BR It is difficult. When you have a son in football like Anton it will always be deemed as if he got the prop up and given the contract, no matter how hard he works. So much so that when he was offered a deal at Chelsea I advised him not to take a professional contract. Most of the young players there would get offered scholarships and a professional contract before they had earned it. I said to Anton: "It's better for you to earn it, son." It left him isolated but I wanted him to earn it, so he could do his apprenticeship and then get the reward at the end of it, which he did. He's never had it easy.
Is criticism given as a football manager or as a father to a son?
AR I see it as advice from my dad really. It hurts when you are getting criticised but I don't see it like that from my dad. It's said to make me a better player and he's always been like that.
BR I always look for the positives in his performance. For example, he got on against Shrewsbury the other day and this morning I was looking at his clips from that game to see where he can improve and what he could have done better. But I do that with all players and I've always done it with Anton.
What is your dad like when he loses?
AR He's all right, to be fair. You hear loads of stories about other managers who fall out with themselves after a defeat but he's all right and he tries not to bring it home with him. Like anyone in sport it hurts when you lose but he doesn't bring it home. It's a good job with the game we've got on Sunday. We've got nothing to lose and are really looking forward to the game. It's also the first time we will have played against each other.
It has been a difficult year for your family off the pitch (Anton was cleared of sexual assault and voyeurism in May following a retrial at the Old Bailey).
BR As parents, both his mum and I found it really, really difficult, especially when you know the innocence of your son. The one thing we took out of it was that his mum was there for every minute of the trial and she saw everything. I was there for parts of it and we are talking about two trials at the Old Bailey here, not just one. The nature of that and what you go through is surreal. We always knew the innocence of our son and you have to fight to prove that. It was a really difficult period because obviously Anton has got his professional life and I'm at one of the biggest clubs in the world, but this is about life and it was very, very important for us to defend his name. His mum and I would have done anything to defend his name.
Brendan, when you go through the strengths and weaknesses of Oldham before the game will you make an exception for Anton?
BR I'll just tell them the No17 is the best player. In all seriousness, that's the job but it is also a situation I want the players to pay attention to because the footballing gods sometimes come into it as well. With the footballing gods he could end up getting a goal. But not only that, I have to get the team to keep an eye on him because he's a good player. I can't skip over it because it's Anton.
How much competitiveness is there between you?
AR Before every game we've ever played we've both wanted to win but he probably let me win a few things when I was younger.
BR I gave him a few beatings. When he was younger we'd be on holiday playing pool, tennis, table tennis or whatever, he'd always want to win and I would sometimes let him. I was the same with his sister. I remember having a race against her when she was nine or 10 on holiday and tripping her when I thought she would win. Anton has never had it easy.