Brendan Rodgers’ latest interview to the media, where he talked about Anthony Ralston and ruled out Celtic offering him an improved contract for the moment, was illuminating and quite brilliant in the way it shone a light into our manager’s thinking process and offered us a fascinating glimpse of what it portends for everyone at the club.
In the interview he warned his players about the “Louis Vuitton culture” in the game, and about the lure of easy money.
Some will characterise this as Brendan basically protecting Celtic from predatory clubs south of the border, but in fact it’s not.
This is Brendan and his very best, once again, doing what so few managers in the game are prepared to do.
This is Brendan trying not only to be a manager but a mentor, giving his players guidance not only for what they do on the pitch but how they do off it.
For any young player at Celtic Park that sort of advice may well be more valuable than any coaching he gives them.
For far too many managers in the game today, their responsibility ends the minute they’ve got their players into the right headspace for playing in matches. But young players everywhere are being subjected to temptation and distractions like never before, and Brendan knows this because he’s seen it at Anfield and elsewhere.
Football still crushes more dreams than it makes, a fact often overlooked when we see even mediocre players making vast sums of money.
Those who “make it” – in other words, those who end up playing first team football somewhere – are still very much in the minority. Those who flunk out, who can’t even make a living in the game, are far more common.
It remains a hugely unforgiving world, where everything can easily go wrong.
Brendan has certainly seen more young kids leave the training ground in tears than he has seen players go on to become top stars. He has seen kids who thought they’d cracked it disappear into designer clothes, all focus on the game lost, for everything to swiftly unravel. Even those who do make it to the big time and get to play and earn the big bucks … well, they aren’t necessarily better or happier people for it.
Football is full of players who get addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, who can’t handle the spotlight and being in the public eye, it’s full of players who crash and burn in full view of the world. And horrifying statistics permeate the sport – they are what players don’t like to talk about or think about at the peak of their careers; large numbers who end up doped on painkillers for years, the number of bankrupts. Those who swirl into depression.
Brendan is telling our kids not to be seduced by the glamour and the glitz and the immediacy of wealth. He’s telling them to stay level-headed, to focus on what matters. He cares about their welfare and well being above and beyond the here and now and into their futures.
He is a good man, a decent man, in a sport with a shortage of those.
And our kids would do well to listen to it all. As he’s made some of our players better footballers his goal for our youth stars is loftier still; to make them better, and happier, people. That is something every one of us should be right behind.