Rodgers hits back at Keane over ‘double standards’
Celtic boss defends players’ celebrations after qualifying for Champions League
BRENDAN RODGERS has responded to Roy Keane’s criticism of Celtic players for celebrating their Champions League qualification by accusing the legendary Irishman of double standards.
Keane, the former Celtic midfielder, branded the Scottish champions’ reaction to booking a place in the group stages of Europe’s premier club competition for the first time in three years as “over the top”.
However, Rodgers, whose team was hammered 7-0 by Barcelona in the Camp Nou in their opening Group C match on Tuesday night, has aimed a sly dig back at the outspoken Republic of Ireland assistant manager
“I respect his opinion,” he said. “He has been a manager and he is an assistant now so he has seen what it takes to achieve something.
“When they [the Republic of Ireland] qualified for the Euros [in 2016] I think that was an achievement. I don’t think there were too many of the staff who stood not smiling, or hugging or cuddling or stuff.”
Rodgers added: “We went through six real tough qualification games. Until you actually come through it, until you actually experience the emotion and see what it means to people, you don’t understand. We are talking a country here that has to fight for the right to be in qualification.
“The players have to go through a whole season and then go through six qualifying games. I think the players have every right, out of relief, out of ambition as players, to celebrate. Some of these players may never be at Roy’s level or the level of some other big players, but, for them, they have achieved something.
“So I think they have every right to celebrate success if success was to reach the Champions League. A lot of them have never been there before. Why shouldn’t they celebrate?”
Mark Warburton, his Rangers counterpart, was upset by the “poisonous” and “mischievous” media coverage of his side’s 5-1 humbling to Celtic at Parkhead last weekend, but Rodgers stressed he was unperturbed by the criticism of both him and his side since moving to Glasgow.
“You will see over time that this kind of thing doesn’t bother me,” he said. “Opinion now has never been greater in life and football in particular. Sometimes there are reasons behind it, sometimes there are messages behind the messages.
“For me, I respect all opinions, everyone has one on the game and football, but unless someone shows me then I wouldn’t really know what was being said. My focus is only on the best interests of the club, the players and trying make us better. So it doesn’t bother me.”
Meanwhile, Rodgers has admitted that during the January transfer window he will try to strengthen his squad with players who have the “physical attributes” to enable Celtic to compete in the Champions League.
“The players here will be better players for these experiences, even the negative experience of the other night,” he said. “They will grow from that and be better going forward.
“We need certain profiles of players in order to help us as well. But there are certain physical attributes that you need, at that level in particular, that can help you. You look at the difference in speed and power and strength.
“It is something we tried to do in the summer, but we just didn’t have that availability of the player we would want. We came in with virtually the same group of players and brought in a few who could help us immediately, but of course we can’t solve all the problems in one hit.
“But certainly in January we will try to improve again. January, from what I see in my experience now, is such an important window for you in the Scottish game, relative to the summer window.
“In January we are really trying to prepare for winning the league and the next go at the Champions League. It’s the reverse, really, in terms of what it would be down south.
“It can be a difficult window to get players in. You only want to do business when there is quality but it can be done. I brought Daniel Sturridge and [Philippe] Coutinho to Liverpool in January and they made a difference.
“It’s about recruitment and trying to get the players in, and also to find out if they are available and affordable. That is key.”
Leigh Griffiths, the striker who was ruled out of the Ladbrokes Premiership match against Rangers last Saturday and the Champions League game against Barcelona on Tuesday, will miss the league game against Inverness Caledonian Thistle tomorrow.
But Rodgers is optimistic Celtic can extend their run of wins recorded immediately after European ties to 20 in the Highlands. “Hopefully it stays that way,” he added. “It’s a fair trip to Inverness. Leigh is out on the field and is working. It will probably be at the middle and end of next week when he won’t be too far away. But certainly not at the weekend.”
ALL SMILES: Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers celebrates his side’s 5-1 victory over rivals Rangers.