As we gear up for another league season, another long campaign, the drums are beating in the media. They cannot unsettle players, because the squad is as contented and happy as many of us have seen it. Key footballers have signed new deals. Others have been convinced to stay for at least one more year before exploring their options.
Brendan Rodgers is back at the helm. In spite of some media sniping and wishful thinking, whatever issues there were previously between him and the board have been settled. They must have, otherwise that man would not be back here. He would have sought, and been given, assurances over issues such as his budget and his control over the team.
When he was appointed, I watched very carefully for the way in which that was announced. I saw what I wanted to see; Brendan being referred to as “the manager” and not the “head coach.” The difference is crucial, and was the key to his coming back.
But the media doesn’t care about the mood inside Celtic Park. If they can’t stir trouble up that way – and they have tried to, as can be revealed in the numerous articles wondering when Brendan will get “his own signings” – they will find another way to do it.
Unfortunately, The Green Brigade’s initial reaction to Rodgers’ return gave them their window of opportunity. Whatever you might think of Rodgers, or them, they allowed the media an avenue down which to come at us, and that was revealed in midweek. The press is going to watch every single thing The Green Brigade and other fan groups do.
They will also be watching fan media for the first sign that discontent is growing. The perception they want to create is that there will be no honeymoon for the manager who walked out on us, and they will leap on any sign that this is the case.
They did this all the way through the summer. They tried to turn every little drama into a crisis. Look at the reaction to our strip release; I’ve never seen such a hysterical overblown media attack on a club, and an effort to create a split amongst the fans, over a new home top.
Fans have been complaining about these things, as regular as clockwork, since I’ve been on social media. There is always some element of a strip design people don’t like. What’s new is seeing the reactions of a handful of people exploded all over the internet and the media trying to present a “consensus” that nobody is happy about it.
I actually hated it myself, but I’m going to be honest; it’s steadily grown on me. I’m definitely going to buy the new top early in the campaign, probably in time for my first Champions League away trip. I actually do now think it looks pretty good, especially the short sleeve version. Sometimes you just need time to get used to something new.
But the larger wedge issue, of course, is Rodgers himself as we’re all well aware, and the media will be looking for any sign that he doesn’t have the full backing from the stands. Where it gets really difficult, and dangerous, is if the hacks can ask Rodgers about any residual anger and have him make some negative comment on it … doubtful but you never know.
It’s not impossible. If protests against him continue, if the media can paint a picture of even the slightest discontent, they will not hesitate to hit us with that over and over again. This season, more than ever, the behaviour of the fans is important.
In fact, the way the fans respond to the manager and the team is going to be critical. We must not give these people the slightest opportunity to create issues. We must be alert that we do not let them paint us in a negative light.
We know they’ll try to anyway; Hell, this is what they do, after all. But guys, let’s at least not make it easy for them.