Forget Arsenal, Rodgers Owes Celtic Another Season

 • by Sam McGuire
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Brendan Rodgers shouldn’t even be entertaining the thought of moving away from Celtic, even though The Independent list him as a possible candidate to replace Arsène Wenger at Arsenal

The Frenchman’s current deal expires in the summer of 2019 but his position is to be reviewed at the end of this campaign. As things stand, the Gunners look set to miss out on Champions League football for a second successive campaign. Change may be on the cards.

A move to a top six club in the Premier League might be an intriguing and enticing prospect for Rodgers – the 45-year-old still has a point to prove after how his spell in charge of Liverpool came to an end.

If he continues to impress with the Scottish champions, offers from clubs in the English top flight won’t be in short supply. But for now, he’s got unfinished business with Celtic. 

When the club appointed Rodgers during the summer of 2016, they bought into his philosophy hook, line, and sinker.

They changed their recruitment policy, putting much more emphasis on signing young talent who could be developed, and altered their academy structure to give him the best opportunity of succeeding.

And in March 2017, Celtic appointed Lee Congerton as the new head of recruitment at Parkhead. During his time as chief scout at Chelsea, the transfer guru worked alongside Rodgers, who was then reserve team manager. The Celtic boss would have had a say in Congerton being appointed.

“I know Brendan well,” said Congerton after Celtic announced his appointment. ‘I know how he works and the quality he aims for.”

The club’s strategy will no doubt remain the same if Rodgers does move on but it’s clear it’s geared towards him and his coaching strengths.

Was it a naïve move on the club’s part? Possibly. Giving a manager so much sway, power and influence means big change will occur when they depart. That transition can often derail a project.  

But Celtic wanted to get back on track, both on the pitch as well as off of it, and Rodgers was the ideal man to do that. He’s been instrumental in Scottish youngsters opting to move to Celtic instead of moving down south to the Premier League or the Championship.

Lewis Morgan joined the Hoops in January but will remain on loan with St Mirren until the end of current campaign. He’s one of the most exciting wide players in Scotland and had a host of clubs courting him.

He was complimentary of Rodgers after putting pen to paper with the club.

“I remember after the game (when St Mirren played Celtic at Parkhead) the manager commented to me about my pace and how I’d done well. To hear that from him at such a young age was a big thing. It gave me a lot of confidence,

“Coming to work with him was a key factor in joining. He’s incredible and I’m looking forward to working with him and his backroom staff.

Likewise, Jack Hendry, a £1million signing on deadline day, mentioned the Ulsterman during his first interview with the club.

“I also know that working with Brendan Rodgers and the rest of the coaching staff here will improve me as a player and I’m looking forward to working hard every day to repay the faith they’ve shown in signing me.”

The Celtic project doesn’t hinge on Rodgers but his involvement is vital in building solid foundations for the future.

The European record

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Celtic haven’t got the money to compete with Europe’s elite, it’s why they aren’t expected to top a Champions League group or replicate their free-scoring domestic form in the Europa League. They are, however, expected to put in performances to give their fans something to shout about.

Finishing bottom of a group containing Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Mönchengladbach last season was no shame, especially as Rodgers’ side picked up two admirable points in two matches against Pep Guardiola’s rampant City.

The Hoops impressed in both matches and the atmosphere for the home fixture was electric. 

The performance in the 3-3 draw was what many expected to see on a regular basis from Celtic under the Carnlough-born manager. Tactically, he got it spot-on. Unfortunately, it was nothing more than an anomaly.

Since his arrival, the club have lost games against Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Astana, Anderlecht and Zenit St Petersburg. It’s not a list made up of European heavyweights, although the latter have spent big money. 

At Celtic, Rodgers has been given huge backing, he needs to repay that faith with a run in Europe.

The Celtic project is nowhere near completion and success in Europe still eludes them. And that’s where the ex-Swansea City manager has to prove himself before he can consider his time in Scotland a success.

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