Rodgers is the best Celtic could have hoped for to send a strong message
Arrival of Northern Irishman ahead of the Scottish Cup final sends a warning to rivals they are playing with the big boys
THE timing could well be described as being mischievous. The appointment inarguably the right one.
In 2016, with all the restrictions Celtic work within, certainly in terms of what they can pay their managers and players in these more frugal days, Brendan Rodgers is the best the club could have hoped for. Peter Lawwell, his board and the never seen but always present Dermot Desmond have pulled off a coup.
Roy Keane would have been box office and filling Celtic Park, at least in the early months of his tenure, would not have been a problem. Neil Lennon was a safe pair of hands, David Moyes an interesting move even though it could be argued his name was bigger than his actual managerial talent.
Celtic made a mistake the last time. They gambled unnecessarily and those in charge knew the next decision had to be bang on the money.
And talking about the green stuff, a boat has been pushed rather far out to get Rodgers in. He will not have come cheap. Suggestions that his annual wage could be anything between £1.5m and £2m are not fanciful. Unlike Ronny Deila and to a certain extent Neil Lennon, he will not have moved to Glasgow on the promise of a few million to spend here and there.
All of a sudden, after weeks of rumours, suggestions and meetings between those and such-as-those, the Celtic support have been given a gift from the men many wanted out. Not since Martin O’Neill breezed into this parish has there been so much confidence felt for the new man in the manager’s office.
Rodgers was a Steven Gerrard slip away from leading Liverpool to their first Premier League title since 1990, scoring 101 goals along the way. That team were a joy to watch. He made mistakes, sure, but was it his fault the disgraced Luis Suarez, now the world’s most deadly striker, left Liverpool two months after the title was so cruelly denied to the Anfield club? It certainly wasn’t Rodgers who thought that signing Mario Balotelli would do anything other than make trouble. He was a success at Liverpool. The club’s hapless football committee let him down.
His record at Swansea City was superb. He needed just one season to easily win promotion to the Premier League; his team playing a style of football that made a mockery of those who claim to get out of the Championship is all about churning out results rather than entertaining the punters.
And then when in with the big boys, Rodgers played the game on and off the pitch to perfection. It is why Liverpool moved for him. Swansea’s football was sublime. All one touch, passing the ball along the ground, no long punts, all done with precision and pace.
This was missing for a whole season. The hope and belief is that Rodgers will bring it back.
Rodgers’s career was ended when he was only 20. A knee injury did for that. This was at Reading and at a time when he must have thought luck had deserted him, he had the good fortune of Tommy Burns appearing and it was the Celtic legend who gave the Northern Irishman the chance to head up the academy.
So good was his reputation that Jose Mourinho took him to Chelsea in 2004 where he quickly became reserve team coach. He has done the hard yards. This is not someone who has had anything handed to him on a plate.
Talk to anyone on the Merseyside beat who works in newspapers and they will say he was highly respected by the players and that for the most part he handled everything that was thrown at him in what is one of the biggest jobs in world football.
“Brendan does love himself,” says more than one and by all accounts this is true. The lad from County Antrim has no shyness. He got his teeth fixed, there was a suggestion, never confirmed, that to lose some weight he paid for the services of a surgeon, and the much younger and, of course, glamorous girlfriend quickly followed.
Self-confidence is no bad thing when you have been asked to take over at Celtic Park. He will need such strong belief in himself and his methods to make this work. On paper, it does seem a perfect match but nothing in life is guaranteed.
Liverpool is one thing but being the Celtic manager in the Glasgow goldfish bowl when Rangers have returned and the Champions League was something that has only happened on the telly for two years now would be a challenge for anyone. Rodgers will soon find out that this is a different world.
This has been a good few days for Lawwell who has been under pressure, which he felt came from the media when in fact it came from the supporters. He, Desmond and the rest have won back an awful lot of goodwill.
And the fact this was announced at 5pm on a Friday night, ahead of Rangers playing Hibernian in a Scottish Cup final, is, surely, just circumstance. Yeah, right. Celtic will deny it; however, this is a deliberate act, a reminder to a certain other club about who remain the biggest show in town.
Only a few days earlier, the briefing coming from the club was nothing had been agreed and it might well go into this week. A deal was done long before Friday evening.
Celtic Park is going to be a busy place this summer. Players will leave and (relatively) expensive signings will be made. Only a year ago the club pulled out of a deal because the fee was £1m too much and the weekly wage demand was £10,000 more than the best paid player.
It will be interesting to see whether such a transfer would go through this summer with the new man in situ. The Ladbrokes Premiership has just got a lot more interesting.
“Self-confidence is no bad thing when you have been asked to take over at Celtic. It does seem a perfect match but nothing in life is guaranteed
KOP A LOAD OF THIS: Brendan Rodgers was relatively successful at Anfield with Liverpool.