Will Rodgers be the man to restore European pride to Celtic?

The measure of success for a club of Celtic’s size should not be limited to domestic competition.  Yes, the world record 8th domestic treble Ange secured before heading off to the bright lights of White Heart Lane was a fantastic achievement, but a better one would be to see Celtic regularly compete in the knock-out rounds of European competition.

Celtic have not seen real success in Europe since reaching the 2003 UEFA Cup final.  That was 20 years ago and 20 years with very little progress is too long and unacceptable for a club like Celtic.

Despite rumours of his impending departure, many fans were hoping against hope that Ange would stay in Paradise for another season and take a second crack at Champions League football.  There were some positive signs from last season’s campaign that Ange could have built on going into the coming season with renewed European optimism.

Progress under Ange

Performances against top sides such as Real Madrid and RB Leipzig showed that Celtic can go toe-to-toe with the big boys, at least for an hour.  But ultimately, poor finishing and a gap in quality resulted in Celtic finishing bottom of the group.

It was a tired tale of being so near and yet blatantly so far behind; small margins having big consequences.  Now we’ll never know if Ange could have closed those margins enough to progress the club to a level on the European scene where we believe it belongs.

The baton for that task looks increasingly likely to fall into the hands of Brendan Rodgers.  Rodgers has already had one chance to help Celtic re-establish credibility in Europe and that ended with mixed reviews.

For every positive result against Manchester City or away win at Anderlecht, there was an embarrassing thumping by Barcelona or PSG, and, try we as might to forget it, there was also Lincoln Red Imps.

Second chance for Rodgers

But if, as expected, Brendan Rodgers is re-appointed as Celtic manager, he comes back as a man who has taken Leicester City to the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League.  He comes back as a manager who is perhaps that little bit wiser now and not so keen to play an open game against Europe’s elite because it worked at the weekend against Partick Thistle.

Ange laid the foundations by qualifying for the Champions League and sending the club out to play attacking football. It is on Rodgers to build upon that and take Celtic back to European knock-out nights underneath the lights at Celtic Park post-January.

A case can be argued that Brendan Rodgers is a better manager than Ange Postecoglou, and if the reports are to be believed, he will have a £30 million transfer kitty to play with as well as total control of the footballing aspect of the club.

The Northern Irishman achieved great success at Celtic during his previous tenure despite the problems and disagreements with the boardroom towards the end of his time at the club. His main gripe was that he didn’t have the money to sign the players he really wanted; that should no longer be an issue.

Instead of signing John McGinn and Timothy Castagne, who have both gone to excel elsewhere, he received Jeremy Toljan and Youssouf Mulumbu. Rodgers still made do with what he had and to great success. A well-backed Brendan Rodgers with the money reported at his disposal could prove a scary prospect for Scottish Football and across the city.


Europe is the barometer

Achieving success or tangible progress in Europe is the barometer that Rodgers and all future Celtic managers should be judged on.  Celtic has missed out on the cash cow of Champions League football for too long now and needs to be consistently reaching the latter stages of European competitions to meet the ambitions of the fans.

The domestic expectation on Rodgers will almost be reflective of the results that he produced in his first tenure as Celtic manager. The expectation will be to dominate Scottish football, and there is no doubt that he has the tools to achieve that.

If Brendan Rodgers can ensure a seamless transitional period with the squad he inherits from Ange, as well as playing entertaining, high-tempo football that gets the fans back on his side, then there should be nothing standing in the way of success.

The expectation should be that Celtic aim to continue their recent domination of the Scottish game while not being afraid to pursue progress in Europe and take the steps required to ensure that Celtic is once again a revered name on the continent.

It may be a big ask, but if Brendan wants to convince us he’s here for the right reasons, it would be a good place to start.

James McKenzie / Kevin McCluskie

Leave a Reply