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 Herald - Herald Sport - - FOOTBALL - NEIL CAMERON

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

Pic­ture: Getty

KOP A LOAD OF THIS: Bren­dan Rodgers was rel­a­tively suc­cess­ful at An­field with Liver­pool.

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