Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic revolution reminds me a little bit of the Martin O’Neill one in some ways, a major rout against an Ibrox side being just one of them. But it goes deeper than that, deeper than just into the football results. It’s reflected everywhere.
Take the return of the feel-good factor in the stands. That was evidenced by the thousands of supporters who turned up to see Brendan unveiled as the boss. There has never been a reception like it; even Martin didn’t come face to face with such numbers, and he was the overwhelming choice of the supporters, who knew something special was happening.
The greatest reflection of that was in season ticket sales, the sheer volume of them, and the way supporters rallied to the cause again.
The media, in its cynicism, couldn’t help try to link that to a certain other club reaching the SPL, but you only had to talk to fans to realise that Brendan was the real draw, and we soon shifted from him to wondering what kind of team he wanted to put out on the park. And there we have another O’Neill reminder.
Whilst Brendan hasn’t had O’Neill style money to spend (not yet anyway) he tapped the same sort of market as his fellow Irishman did. He knows English football, knows where the bargains are, and knows what to look for in a player. Dembele was first, and that was an astonishingly ambitious signing which a few in the media tried to cast doubt on; Dembele was young and “unproven” after all. How would he adapt to Scotland, and the bright lights of a huge club?
When he didn’t immediately score a goal they did what they always do to a Celtic striker in his early spell; they put him under pressure. If he felt it he didn’t show it. On that night against Astana he stepped up in the very last minute to take the crucial penalty. I cannot imagine how he felt, but for all of us watching the weight of that moment was enormous. He didn’t even hesitate, and at that moment you just knew we had a player, one of real quality.
I wasn’t surprised to see some in the media refer to Griffiths’ absence at the weekend as a “game changer” – Neil McCann at least fronted up at full time and ate his humble pie – because most of the press here haven’t the first clue what makes a decent player. You only have to look at the way they poured honey all over the signings across town, without even the most basic research or fact-checking. But no sooner was Dembele signed than they had a different target in mind anyway … the manager himself, of course.
The refrain then was that he’s never won a trophy, as though certain other bosses arrived in Scotland weighted down with them.
Then it was his European record at Liverpool they had under the microscope.
When we were drawn against Astana, one newspaper actually wrote a foaming at the mouth piece about his salary and said he needed to “earn it” by going through to the Groups – an achievement the same paper (and others) has said, consistently, was beyond any Scottish team now or in the future. As such it seemed ludicrous to be making such a demand on a first-season boss, facing a difficult challenge with someone else’s squad.
Yet Brendan Rodgers successfully navigated those difficult waters, and we took our place in the big draw. No-one has suggested he needs to beat these teams, because even our hacks wouldn’t dare write something so nonsensical, but headlines are probably being prepared right now for any eventuality where we are “embarrassed” – and you know what I think of using that particular word in the context of games against teams of this calibre.
No-one dared criticise the signings of Toure or Sinclair; those were obvious stand-outs, with Scott in particular the type of huge talent who could have got into any Celtic team of the past 30 years, a player of the utmost quality who’s already proving it.
Likewise, Toure, who has the experience and the passion and skill that he could still play literally anywhere.
His other signings, we’ve not seen enough of yet to make a judgement but based on these guys I suspect they’ll all do well.
De Vries was untested at the weekend; had he brought his Saturday supplements and sat and read them we wouldn’t have felt under pressure.
Incredibly, there were some in the media who, before Saturday, were already calling it the biggest test Brendan has faced so far, and he was under immense pressure to win it. Having accomplished that, what do you reckon some are clinging to?
That he caught Warburton and his team at the right time, with players not up to full fitness (nonsense when you consider they played more games in the League Cup than we did getting to the Champions League groups) or still bedding into the team … something that apparently didn’t affect Dembele, Toure or Sinclair at all.
The best one thus far came from Clyde, from the mouth of Keevins himself, who I caught on the radio as I was in a taxi headed for the pub. He says he won’t change his view that Sevco (who he thought “bought better” in the summer haha) will win the league until Brendan secures a win at Ibrox.
That, apparently, is the real test of our manager.
But Keevins aside, and he’s a special case in idiocy terms, the cynical nit-picking has come to an end.
Although Sevco fans still cling to the fantasy that Rodgers is a failed manager and that they “made Dembele look good” (oh yes, I actually read that in more than one place) the press no longer writes such obvious nonsense. They’ve turned full-tilt and instead of sarcasm Brendan is now dripped wet with their sycophantic drool.
Their criticism never bothered him. Their praise won’t distract him now.
This revolution forges on, and what a transformation we’ve already seen in this club.
In Brendan We Trust.