The season so far… How have Celtic been doing since Brendan Rodgers returned?

We are now around a third of the way through the 2023/24 season. It has been a campaign with some surprises, as is often the case in this unpredictable world of Scottish football.

Did fans expect the departure of Ange Postecoglou to be followed by the shock return of Brendan Rodgers to the Parkhead dugout? How about the surprise resurgence of Liam Scales? Who could have predicted that?

It has certainly been an entertaining first third of the season, with Celtic sitting eight points clear at the summit of the Premiership. Rodgers’ men are still in with the faintest glimmer of hope in Europe, albeit the chances of European football beyond Christmas are currently sitting at slim to none.

Here is A Celtic State of Mind’s report card for the season so far:

Best Player: Matt O’Riley

The Dane has been the standout performer for Celtic this season as he continues to add new facets to his game as the weeks go on. He has added more goals to his game with his finishing looking night and day from last season, only Kyogo Furuhashi has more goals than him in the first quarter.

The 23-year-old has shown the grit and fight required to see the team through some tough moments, even picking up the UEFA player-of-the-match award against Atlético Madrid.

His early season exploits were finally rewarded with his full Denmark debut this week against Northern Ireland in the European Championship qualifiers, where the former Fulham midfielder started and played the first hour of the 2-0 defeat.


Surprise Package: Liam Scales

The Irishman has seen a career resurgence under Brendan Rodgers, filling in during an injury crisis that plagued the club’s options at the back, and he has maintained his place in the squad ever since.

Scales has been dominant in the air and, in recent weeks, his passing range has come to the fore. These aspects of his game have made him an indispensable player to Brendan Rodgers’ side throughout the first third of this season.

Like O’Riley, the performances of Liam Scales this season have pushed him towards full international recognition. Ireland manager, Stephen Kenny, handed the Dubliner his debut against Greece last month, and this was followed up with two further caps against Gibraltar and the Netherlands.

These international forays all added to the incredible turnaround in Scales’ fortunes since Brendan Rodgers returned to the club.


Best Signing: Luis Palma

Palma has made a flying start to life at Celtic, quickly building up a knack of producing the extraordinary from long-range, scoring cracking goals against Motherwell, Kilmarnock and, most recently, Ross County.

The Honduran has flourished in the absence of Liel Abada through injury and it may be hard for the Israeli to win back his place in the team upon his return.

The move to Scotland, and the player’s form, has worked wonders for his international career too. When Palma signed for Celtic, he hadn’t kicked a ball for Honduras in nearly a year. Since joining the Parkhead side, the wide-man has started all five internationals, scoring once and grabbing two assists.


Best Goal: Luis Palma vs Ross County on 4th November 2023

It may be a case of recency bias, but the Honduran’s goal against the Staggies is the early frontrunner for goal of the season. He saw Ross Laidlaw off his line and unleashed a lethal strike on his right foot that looped over the stopper and into the top-left corner.

Palma has a knack of plucking long-range strikes out of nowhere. It is an aspect of his game that is vital against the packed defences of Scottish football, as that quality of execution simplpy cannot be defended.

With seven goals and seven assists in just 17 appearances for Celtic, 30 goal contributions does not seem to be beyond Palma in his debut campaign.


Best Game: Rangers 0-1 Celtic // Scottish Premiership // 3rd September 2023

Arguably the most important result of the season so far, as a depleted Celtic side went into Ibrox as underdogs. Hopes amongst sections of the Celtic support were low to say the least, with this writer even predicting a draw as an optimistic result.

Celtic withstood barrage after barrage of attack in an organised and assured display, and it was Kyogo that continued his goal-scoring form against Rangers with a fantastic finish on the volley from outside the box that flew past Jack Butland.

Given the circumstances and the pressure on Celtic and Brendan Rodgers heading into the game, this will be a win that will be looked back on as pivotal to the destination of the title at the end of the season.

Grade: A-

The exit from the Viaplay Cup in the second round at Rugby Park was disappointing, but the way the team have bounced back and fought through an unprecedented injury crisis and a tough run of away fixtures to be eight points clear at the top of the league table has to be commended.


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