Those who say “good guys finish last” have never come across Brendan Rodgers. Our manager is a man of the finest character, and it is has made him one of the most important people in our game. He has a decency that makes him stand out. He cares about other people. He values them. His critics would have you believe he is arrogant, but what I see is a man with a healthy self-regard and that’s not the same thing.
Brendan is a leader, and not the sort who rules by fear. Like all great leaders, he can inspire those around him and make them feel important. He knows that the best way to get folk to do what you want is to treat them with respect, to make them feel like everyone is in it together. This is how he builds teams. This is why some of the finest footballers on the planet have only good things to say about him, even those who’ve achieved their own success.
Football is a game where it is possible to achieve things and rule by fear; Alex Ferguson did it for many years. Pedro is trying it right now. Some think Mourinho does the same, but actually those who have played under him come to realise quickly how much he does for his players. He is the opposite of Ferguson, a very different sort of manager. Brendan is the same. The players come first for him, and he is extraordinarily protective of them.
Look at the way he came to the defence of Leigh Griffiths when a journalist suggested that we did not miss him in the 5-1 game at Celtic Park. Look at how he stood up for the players who were not part of his plans, including Efe Ambrose. Look at the way he defused what would have been a tricky situation with Leigh last season, after the player reacted badly to being substituted. It was one of the classiest things I’ve ever seen.
Brendan doesn’t just care about people inside our club though. When Jon Daly spat the dummy at him last month the papers wrote about it as if Brendan had it coming, and Daly was doing Scottish football a favour in trying to cut him down to size. It was ludicrous press coverage. In fact, what Daly was trying to do was impress his prospective bosses – look how well it turned out too, haha – by standing up for their ridiculous system.
Brendan was standing up for a fellow manager who had been treated like shit, who’d had his hands tied by those above him and was effectively thrown to the wolves. Brendan had talked with Ian Cathro and knew the sources of his anger and frustration; our manager wasn’t just making stuff up, having a pop for the sake of. He was asked his opinion and gave it, and in doing so stood up for a guy who the press was fileting and the club had just binned.
In another country, Brendan would have got credit for that. Not in this one.
This week we’ve learned that he was the only major figure in Scottish football to offer his congratulations to the Scottish Women’s Team when they reached the Euros. He actually pulled Stewart Regan aside to get him to remind Anna Signeul that he had issued a standing invite to her to visit him and the team at Lennoxtown.
Inside the game, he has offered support to everyone from youth development organisations to grass roots football. Outside of the game, you hear stories about how much he has done for charities across the country, how much time he gives to various causes.
This guy is a cut above, and everyone knows it.
He is the perfect ambassador for our game, and for our country.