One of the media’s favourite scare stories is the one that says when the first good offer comes along that Brendan Rodgers will leave us to pursue it.
They never elaborate on what constitutes a “good offer”, and that’s very deliberate. It means that they can link him to every managerial vacancy in the top flight south of the border. Whenever one comes up, fevered speculation will follow.
In peddling this nonsense they hope to have some effect on our cohesion.
Brendan has delivered a real blow to that kind of talk in the last few weeks, and it has gone largely unexplored in the press, who instead focussed on his statement about not being prepared to put a timeline on how long he will be here. We understood what he meant; indeed, he spelled it out. One only has to look at the fate of Warburton to see that it’s a rare manager indeed who gets to pick and choose the moment at which he leaves a club.
The manager talks about a long-term plan. This week, Erik Sviatchenko has revealed that within the club foundations are being laid for “the next four or five years.” This doesn’t sound like a man who is even considering what other options might be out there; Brendan and his backroom team are looking at the big picture from Celtic Park, and plotting how to restore our standing on the stage where it counts most, in Europe.
Champions League reform can’t happen until after the next series of changes, but one wouldn’t bet against a bigger tournament somewhere down the line, with six or even eight team groups eventually. This would be the “European Super League” everyone harps on about. It’s important that if it comes Celtic takes its place in it. We need to set high standards; any such competition would be based on merit, and nothing else. We must earn that recognition.
Brendan may or may not be around for that, but this guy understands that there’s a chance to do more at Celtic than simply win trophies.
The idea of a manager building a legacy – something that stands after he’s gone, something that meets the test of time – is said to be outdated, impossible, beyond the control of one man, but Brendan knows that opportunity exists here.
Ten in a row would make him immortal. To restore our status in Europe – and he doesn’t even have to win a competition to do it – would put him in the pantheon of Celtic’s icons. To have laid the foundations on which someone could go even further … well, that would make him one of the most important men in our history.
It’s not inconceivable.
All of this, of course, would have one awesome consequence for other clubs here; they would have to live in our shadow for a long, long, long, long time. I have said a few times on this site that I do believe a challenge will emerge; I still do. It won’t come from Glasgow, because the side across the city which likes to think it’s special will never shake off that mind-set long enough to take a serious, long term, look at what has to be done.
But from outside this city, yes I think that’s possible in time.
Brendan could make sure that it is decades before it’s even feasible. With Champions League expansion that wouldn’t be as suffocating as it sounds, and most Celtic fans reject out of hand the idea that this is somehow a negative anyway.
I hear a lot of bitching about this, and a lot of talk which goes round and round the issue, and the issue itself is clear enough; people think we should suffer a handicap like they do in other sports. It may even be that someone proposes it somewhere down the line; good luck selling that one, guys.
Our club rightly would never stand for it.
It’s not up to Celtic to make other teams better; that’s up to them.
Scottish football clubs, many of whom have been perfectly content to live with mediocrity and who’ve done nothing to further the interests of the wider game, need to get their own houses in order, not try to pull us down to their level. I’m already heart sick of their whinging.
The message Brendan has sent out to them these last couple of weeks is clear enough; Celtic is going to keep on getting stronger, not only for the European challenges we face but to make sure we can see off whatever domestic threats emerge.
If Aberdeen are taken over by an oil baron, we’ll be ready.
If Hibs find gold under their penalty spot we will be prepared.
If Sevco get a crisis loan from the DSS, we will be well placed to deal with it.