When Celtic wrapped up the treble back on 3 June, nothing could really prepare us for the 16 days that were to follow.
Ange Postecoglou walked out for Spurs just three days after the Scottish Cup final, leading Celtic to be linked with a host of managerial candidates from left-field names like Enzo Maresca, Kjetil Knutsen, Jesse Marsch and Daniel Farke, to seasoned EPL gaffers such as Davie Moyes and Graham Potter.
But when Celtic announced their replacement, nearly two weeks after big Ange defected to the milk and honey of the EPL, it was a familiar face with a similar modus operandi who agreed to take the hot-seat at Celtic Park.
THE PRODIGAL SON
The return of Brendan Rodgers seemed unthinkable not too long ago, and a great deal of Celtic fans are still unhappy at the way he left back in 2019. Time and success can be great healers, however, and Brendan has been welcomed back by many others after signing a three-year deal at Celtic Park. Four years have passed since his first spell abruptly ended, and now all we need is the success to heal any other open wounds.
That still won’t be enough for a hardcore within the support, however, as demands for an apology were circulating on social media since his appointment was made official three days ago. There was no chance a new gaffer was going to slip in a “sorry” when giving his first interview to the club’s media team, and so it was proved earlier today.
But what did we learn from Brendan’s first interview since agreeing to a most unlikely return to Paradise?
The new manager described how he was “very proud” to be back at the club, and it was interesting to note how he name-checked Dermot Desmond in his opening address, leaving no doubt around whose man Rodgers was.
He stressed that what he had achieved at Celtic in his first spell was all in the past, how he doesn’t want to focus on nostalgia, and that he was looking forward to further success. Not just domestic success, which he described as our “bread and butter,” but on a European level too.
“Europe is always a big factor for this club,” insisted Rodgers, and he hopes to progress in Europe by playing his own brand of, “attacking, aggressive football”.
Two familiar faces who will be a huge part in Rodgers’ second spell at the club are captain, Callum McGregor, and assistant manager, John Kennedy. Rodgers explained how he met McGregor for a game-changing lunch in Mallorca (as you do) and described him as being, “up there with the very best I’ve ever worked with”. Meanwhile, for anyone still in doubt about Kennedy’s importance at our football club, Rodgers explained that him remaining at Celtic Park was one of the first things he spoke about when discussing a possible return.
As well as premiering their world exclusive interview with Brendan Rodgers today, Celtic also announced the capture of Norwegian midfielder, Odin Thiago Holm, from Vålerenga, and it was interesting to hear Rodgers’ thoughts on a player who had clearly been identified by our recruitment team prior to the new manager’s arrival. Rodgers described Holm as, “dynamic… young… hungry…” with “technical quality (and) speed,” which led to what was undoubtedly the most telling section of today’s interview, as it broached a subject that had led to many of the issues during Brendan’s first spell at the club – recruitment.
Brendan explained how, this time round, he “can see a clear change in that infrastructure,” and cited Mark Lawwell as having done a brilliant job of bringing in the players that fit into Celtic’s profile, describing our Japanese imports in particular as “sensational”.
This discussion on how our recruitment structure has changed is absolutely crucial in Brendan Rodgers agreeing to become Celtic’s manager. First time round, he grew tired of the club (and particularly Peter Lawwell) failing to get deals over the line, then signing players he didn’t want. It seems that assurances have been made, that the infrastructure has changed, and that even if we sign a player not identified by Brendan himself – such as newest recruit Holm – as long as it fits a workable model, then the man in charge will be satisfied.
ACSOM will be in attendance as Brendan speaks to fan media for the first time tomorrow. It doesn’t seem too long ago that we were welcoming Ange Postecoglou into his first fan media press conference, but as Rodgers himself said today, that is all in the past. It’s time to focus on the future.
PAUL JOHN DYKES