Brendan Rodgers confirms what European progress looks like at Celtic

Brendan Rodgers held his first fan media press conference earlier today since returning as Celtic manager and James McKenzie was there to represent A Celtic State of Mind.

After taking a moment to shake the hand of every fan representative at the event, Brendan then spent the next 20 minutes answering questions and sharing his vision of the future.  Part of that future includes making progress on the European front, something that the fans have craved since last reaching a European final back in 2003.

On behalf of ACSOM, James questioned the manager on what he would define as progress in Europe and if winning our first knockout tie since 2004 was the target.  Here’s what the manager had to say.

You have mentioned your ambition to make progress in Europe. What would you define as progress in Europe, would it be getting over the hurdle of winning a European knockout tie?

It’s certainly a start.  I think the draw of getting into the Champions League and what it does for the club financially is great but I’m here to win and I want to win.  It’s why I’ve come back, is to win and see what we can do in Europe.  Europe’s a huge part of the history of this club.

I also understand the challenges having worked in the Premier League and the budgets of those clubs which far supersede what we can pay.  But we want to be competitive and that’s what’s important for us.

Some will define success differently, but certainly, a win in the knockout stages would be a good start.


European expectations

Rodgers experienced knockout football with Celtic twice during his first spell at the club but was unable to secure progress beyond the first knockout stage on either occasion.  Judging by today’s comments, he is looking forward to righting that wrong and taking Celtic deep into European football.

This time around, the Northern Irishman inherits a more talented, well-balanced, and hungrier group of players.  Last season’s Champions League experience will be fresh with the players who, alongside their new manager, are keen to push themselves to new limits on the European stage.

Having taken Leicester to a Europe Conference League semi-final, hopes are high that Rodgers can perhaps go one better with Celtic in the coming seasons.

Rodgers in Europe

Brendan Rodgers oversaw three European campaigns during his first spell in charge at Celtic and got off to the worst possible start, losing 1-0 away in Gibraltar to Lincoln Red Imps in Champions League qualifying.  Thankfully, Celtic recovered to win the home leg before navigating past Astana and Hapoel Be’er Sheva to make the Group Stage.

Despite some brave performances, Celtic ended the group rock bottom behind Barcelona, Manchester City, and Borussia Mönchengladbach.

In 2017/18, Celtic secured a third place finish in their Champions League group behind PSG and Bayern Munich before dropping into Europe’s second competition at the Round of 32 stage.

Zenit St. Peterburg were the opposition and despite winning the first-leg 1-0 at home thanks to a goal from current captain Callum McGregor, a 3-0 reverse in Russia saw Celtic drop out of Europe altogether.

The following season saw Celtic fail to make the Champions League group stage after falling short in Greece against a Vasilis Barkas inspired AEK Athens.  Instead, Celtic made do with the Europa League groups stage, finishing second behind RB Salzburg and ahead of Rosenborg and RB Leipzig.

On this occasion, it was Valencia who proved too strong for Rodgers’ Celtic in the Round of 32, knocking the Hoops out 3-0 on aggregate.



Looking forward not back

Brendan spoke with confidence and clarity today about his European aspirations for next season, and beyond.  A key theme of the press conference was about looking forward and not dwelling on past successes or disappointments. He spoke of his confidence that the infrastructure now exists within the club to help it challenge on the European scene.  The desire is there now from within the hierarchy at the club who finally realise that Europe should be the target for a club the size of Celtic.

Brendan is here is win and make Celtic challenge again in Europe.  He believes he can make that happen, it’s now up to the club to put their money where their mouth is and back him to achieve the desired success and progress.

Kevin McCluskie

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