The Manner Of Ange’s Departure Is What Will Allow Rodgers To Return To Celtic.
One of the great surprises in covering this story over the past week has been seeing the shifting opinion within the Celtic support towards the idea of Brendan Rodgers’ return. The hostility many in the press assumed, and were hoping for, has not largely been present.
There are two reasons why this is the case, and the first of them is simply that Rodgers departure was not entirely a surprise, nor entirely his fault. I had expected him to go at the end of that season; it was just a matter of timing. Things at Celtic had soured for him, and for us, by then and the writing was on the wall in letters 100 feet high.
Regular readers will know that I saw that breakdown first-hand in a meeting with Lawwell the day after the European Champions League game against AEK Athens at Celtic Park. I knew then, talking to the CEO, that something irrevocable had happened behind the scenes and that it would not be fixed. As I came out of that meeting with Auldheid of the Resolution 12 team, we heard the news that John McGinn had signed for Aston Villa.
He had been Rodgers’ number one target, a key part of his “succession planning” with Brown starting to age. When we finally signed a player for the midfield that summer it was an ex-Killie player who had been available on a free for months. It was not hard to imagine the disgust Rodgers must have felt at the way that summer played itself out.
The second thing that made Rodgers return possible was the departure of Ange Postecoglou and the lingering question of who he really was.
Because he seemed the complete opposite of Rodgers in every way, and yet we know now that he had resisted signing a new contract because that would have made it more expensive for an EPL club to get him and he did not want a potential exit route being closed off like that. His agent had been trying to get Spurs to look properly at him for weeks if not months. We don’t even know if, had push came to shove, he’d have given us the full season if they had wanted to bring him in sooner.
There is not as much anger as there was directed at Rodgers when he left. Hell, there would have been very little anger directed at him had he actually left at the end of the campaign, as Ange Postecoglou did. Instead of anger, what Celtic fans feel about Postecoglou is a kind of shock laced with genuine disappointment. He is not the man we thought he was.
This has hardened hearts somewhat, and not before time. I have never believed that a Celtic boss necessarily needs to “get us” as a club, and nor do I believe that personality cults are good for us as they get in the way of the sort of honest, cold blooded assessment that was too long coming in the case of Lennon and which blinded a lot of us to the possibility that Ange might up and go at the first sign of an EPL club showing interest.
The deep cynicism which has fallen over our support in the last fortnight has made anything possible. When I first heard the rumours about Rodgers and my mates and I had the initial discussion about what would happen if the Spurs interest in Ange was real, we all concluded the same thing; if we’re going to be treated this way every manager we get then our next appointment was made easier in some ways because it would be a purely transactional relationship.
The attitude towards managers, we thought, would be the one we have with the players. “We bring you in, we pay you well, you win us trophies, you go and we hire the next guy without no regrets and best wishes for the job you did.”
And in those circumstances, the only issue that matters is “can this guy do us a job?” and with Rodgers the answer to that is an emphatic yes. We know it because when he was last here he won every domestic trophy he competed for. He is an outstanding manager, which means that when you strip emotion out of it he’s also the outstanding candidate.
We know he’ll leave us after a couple of seasons. We accept that as part of the bargain. Just so long as the wheel keeps turning in the sense that we keep on winning. The next two titles are crucial for the Champions League changes and the vast monies from them … but so too is the satisfaction we will all gain from annihilating the Survival Lie by rendering it redundant, and we’re so close to that we can taste it. Rodgers will get us over that line.
Had Ange Postecoglou stayed for another year, or had he just been straight with us in the run up to the final and accepted that he would be moving on – we are not children, we could have dealt with that if it had been explained to us just so – Brendan Rodgers’ return would have been almost inconceivable. Now it seems almost inevitable.