The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

Bren to strike a balance over Asian Cup call-ups


It is a measure of where Brendan Rodgers believes Celtic are at, heading into the internatio­nal break, that not even the impending loss of his top three strikers disturbs his equanimity.

All indication­s are that Japan will look to include Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda in their squad for the Asian Cup, a tournament to be held in Qatar between January 12 and February 10.

Likewise, South Korea will require the services of Hyeon-guy Oh.

With midfielder Reo Hatate also in the running to go with Japan, the Hoops manager is faced with losing a sizeable percentage of his firepower for up to five games.

Given that fact that includes potentiall­y treacherou­s league trips to Aberdeen and Hibs plus a Scottish Cup fourth round tie, it is a significan­t handicap for any manager to deal with.

Rodgers, though, is nothing if not calm about the prospect.

Forewarned is forearmed with the club ready to make a dart into the transfer market – quite possibly for a loan deal – when the January window opens.

“A lot of thought has gone into this for us,” he said.

“The likelihood is those guys, if they are fit, a lot of them will be there. That’s part of our planning.

“The thing for us is it’s not a surprise, we knew it was there and we spoke about it in the summer leading into this window.

“They are away. It’s like the Africa Cup of Nations, it’s part of the deal.

“If you have a number of Asian players in your squad you know this might happen so it’s about dealing with it.

“We know what our ideas are for that. We have it in hand.

“As much as you do not want to lose big players for a length of time, it is always an opportunit­y for someone else. “Everyone is replaceabl­e.”

As much as the likelihood is Celtic will import a striker, nothing will happen before the coaching staff make a critical assessment of the talent already in the building.

“The first look is never outside – it must be from within. You never know, you might have a £15 or £20 million player in your academy,” said Rodgers.

“There is talent here, but it is when it is going to be ready.

“Some players might be talented but might not have that mental strength. They might need to go on loan and become a man.

“In some positions, you can put them straight in. I’ve seen sprinkling­s of talent at Celtic but then it’s about attitude.

“Do they have the right attitude to the game or do they feel they’re entitled?

“It is not just about talent once you are a full-time profession­al.

“People ask if there’s anyone ready to play for the first team. But they have to be ready to train with the first team.

“I have to find that out. If you can’t train when there is no one there, how are you going to play when there is 60,000? That is what my experience tells me. But if there is a player here I am pretty sure I’ll see him.

“And, if the answer is not to be found inside, then of course we look outside at loans or permanent deals.”

The former Liverpool boss has plenty of evidence to support his claim to be a top talent spotter.

“If you track my career, I’ve always had young players,” he said.

“From my very first job at Watford, I had Jack Cork, Liam Bridcutt and Gavin Hoyte.

“At Reading, it was Gylfi Sigurdsson. Right through to Liverpool as well.

“So, I’ll always look and if there’s a talent there, I’d be very disappoint­ed if I didn’t see it because of my focus on youth. That was my life for 15 years.”

In late 2023 the Irishman finds himself with far more than just youth developmen­t to think about.

After a week which saw a highly debatable decision against Daizen Maeda put Celtic on the path to a 6-0 Champions League loss to Atletico Madrid, how he is feeling five months into his second spell in charge?

“Relaxed but focused,” came the reply. “I am loving my time back on and off the pitch. Loving working with the players, a brilliant group who are committed.

“And I am really excited by the future and improvemen­t.

“It’s been a really busy period. Aberdeen will close that off and we are in a good place. Then we will start another until the second of January.”

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