Redemption for Rodgers as Celtic maintain grip on Scottish title

football15 May 2024 20:50| © AFP
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Brendan Rodgers © Gallo Images

Celtic's celebrations of a 12th Scottish Premiership title in 13 years will be particularly sweet for manager Brendan Rodgers after a season in which he has had to silence dissenting voices.

The former Liverpool boss returned to Glasgow for his second spell in charge at Parkhead 11 months ago but was not welcomed back by all the club's support.

Rodgers won a clean sweep of seven domestic trophies during his first stint at Celtic Park between 2016 and 2019, but left under a cloud as he departed for Leicester mid-season.

A banner displaying the message: "You traded immortality for mediocrity. Never a Celt, always a fraud" was famously paraded at the first match after the Northern Irishman's exit.

For those fans frosty to his return, there was of plenty of ammunition to have a go at Rodgers as Celtic struggled all season to match the standards set during the previous two years under Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou.

"It's safe to say the first six months were awkward, in so many ways, so many things happening on and off the pitch," said Rodgers.

The Hoops again failed to make a mark in Europe, exiting the Champions League bottom of a group containing Atletico Madrid, Lazio and Feyenoord.

For the first time as Celtic coach, Rodgers lost a cup tie to Kilmarnock in August, allowing rivals Rangers to pick up the first silverware of the season in the League Cup.

And of most concern, Rodgers's men blew a seven-point lead in the title race to allow Rangers to edge ahead with 10 games to go.


However, as Rangers came off the rails when the pressure ramped up, Rodgers steered Celtic on a steady course to not only win the title, but a bounty of an estimated £60 million in revenue from direct entry to next season's Champions League.

The 51-year-old was keeping score with his critics and unloaded after Saturday's 2-1 victory over Rangers practically secured the title with two games to spare.

"From a personal level, I've been treated like a novice since I've come back here, like it's my first job. However, my principle objective is to make sure Celtic win.

"Part of that is the criticism and I understand that, but it's the mentality of the team that's most important to me.

"That mentality you can see from where we were with injuries, how we've progressed, stayed together, unified, and how we then get to this point where we're nearly crossing the finish line."

More silverware could be to come when the Old Firm face off once more in the Scottish Cup final on 25 May.

Rodgers, though, is already looking further ahead to another crack at the Champions League after his frustrations at not being able to strengthen as he would like in the transfer market last summer.

Celtic are already sitting on close to £70 million of cash in the bank thanks to a successful player trading model and European football in previous seasons.

"This season has been a real challenge. The squad is openly not as strong as I would have liked it to have been," Rodgers said this week.

"What the players have given me has been absolutely brilliant but our job going into next year is to be stronger. Much stronger. But that's something that is well under way."