Rodgers’ Celtic will have to do more than just en­ter­tain

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW LIND­SAY

The Celtic team which Tommy Burns as­sem­bled dur­ing his spell as man­ager is still re­mem­bered fondly by many. It was a joy to watch at times

T HERE were many good rea­sons for the wide­spread eu­pho­ria which greeted the ap­point­ment of Bren­dan Rodgers as Celtic man­ager on Fri­day night. But one of them was the prospect of the Scot­tish cham­pi­ons play­ing the sort of at­tack­ing foot­ball for which the Ir­ish­man’s sides have long been renowned.

Celtic of­ten im­pressed un­der Ronny Deila – the 7-0 tri­umph over Mother­well which he signed off with eight days ago be­fore his side was pre­sented with the Lad­brokes Premier­ship tro­phy was by no means a one-off. Yet, un­hap­pi­ness with the Nor­we­gian’s tac­tics, team selections and the 4-2-3-1 for­ma­tion which he stub­bornly re­lied on, even in home games against far lesser op­po­si­tion, grew steadily dur­ing his two year ten­ure at Park­head.

The thought of watch­ing a Celtic side pro­duce the swash­buck­ling play which a Liver­pool team that com­prised Ra­heem Ster­ling, Daniel Stur­ridge and Luis Suarez con­jured up un­der Rodgers is ap­peal­ing for many sup­port­ers.

The new man at the helm has cer­tainly in­di­cated that is what the Celtic fans can ex­pect in the com­ing sea­son. “I will do all I can to bring our sup­port­ers ex­cit­ing, en­ter­tain­ing and win­ning foot­ball,” he said in the state­ment that an­nounced his ar­rival.

But if Rodgers, who was sacked at An­field in Oc­to­ber after a dis­ap­point­ing run of re­sults had seen the Reds slip to 10th in the table, is to res­ur­rect his ca­reer in Glas­gow his team will have to be more ro­bust de­fen­sively than his pre­vi­ous sides of­ten were.

Even when he was lead­ing Liver­pool to the brink of their first English ti­tle since 1990 in the 2013/14 sea­son, there were mur­mur­ings on The Kop about the porous­ness of his back line. His charges net­ted a hugely im­pres­sive 101 goals. But they con­ceded no fewer than 50 at the same time. It was, by his own ad­mis­sion, far too many.

The 3-3 draw Liver­pool slumped to against Crys­tal Palace at Sel­hurst Park in their penul­ti­mate league game two years ago dealt a sav­age blow to their chances. They had been lead­ing 3-0 with just 11 min­utes re­main­ing.

Celtic’s in­abil­ity to pro­tect a lead un­der Deila rightly in­fu­ri­ated their fans. They failed to qual­ify for the lu­cra­tive group stages of the Cham­pi­ons League this sea­son de­spite be­ing 2-0 and then 3-1 up against Malmo in the first leg of the play-off. That costly col­lapse wasn’t an iso­lated in­ci­dent.

In fair­ness to Deila, he even­tu­ally ad­dressed the prob­lems his team had at the back fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of Ja­son De­nayer and Virgil van Dijk, his first choice cen­tre half part­ner­ship, in the sec­ond half of this sea­son. They let in just 11 goals and kept eight clean sheets in their last 17 games this term.

Rodgers will, then, in­herit a de­cent de­fence in Craig Gor­don, Mikael Lustig, Erik Svi­atchenko, Char­lie Mul­grew, if he signs a new con­tract, and Kieran Tier­ney. Jozo Simunovic, who has been side­lined since Jan­uary, may also be avail­able. He looked promis­ing in the hand­ful of games he fea­tured in.

Rodgers will not, too, find Celtic up against strik­ers as for­mi­da­ble as Ser­gio Aguero, Diego Costa and Romelu Lukaku in the Premier­ship. How­ever, in Europe he most cer­tainly will – par­tic­u­larly if his side man­age to qual­ify for the Cham­pi­ons League group stages for the first time in three years.

Given the hand­some re­mu­ner­a­tion pack­age which the 43-year-old has agreed with Celtic - he has be­come the best-paid man­ager in Scot­tish foot­ball his­tory – he will be re­quired to de­liver in con­ti­nen­tal com­pe­ti­tion. De­fend­ing re­li­ably will be vi­tal to achiev­ing that ob­jec­tive.

The Celtic team which Tommy Burns, who be­came a men­tor to Rodgers at Reading, as­sem­bled dur­ing his spell as man­ager is still re­mem­bered fondly by many. It was a joy to watch at times. Fa­mously, they only lost a soli­tary game in the 1995/96 sea­son.

Burns was, though, un­able to pre­vent Rangers from win­ning the Scot­tish ti­tle and ul­ti­mately paid the price with the job. His fate should serve as a warn­ing to his pro­tégé. It is all very well turn­ing on the style, but it can­not be at the ex­pense of win­ning.

Bren­dan Rodgers is cer­tainly the right man to take Celtic for­ward. He is a big name, has a proven track record at ma­jor clubs, has Euro­pean ex­pe­ri­ence as well as a life­long affin­ity with the Park­head club. Se­cur­ing his ser­vices was, no doubt about it, a coup.

After four sea­sons where, no dis­re­spect to Aberdeen, who have launched spir­ited chal­lenge de­spite hav­ing a far smaller bud­get than Celtic, the Premier­ship ti­tle race has been mun­dane it has now, all of a sud­den, be­come highly in­trigu­ing.

See­ing a Celtic team man­aged by Bren­dan Rodgers go up against the Rangers side of Mark War­bur­ton in the top flight next sea­son will be com­pelling view­ing.

NOW HEAR THIS: Bren­dan Rodgers gets his mes­sage across to Ra­heem Ster­ling at An­field in 2014

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