Last night, the manager was brilliant. On the pitch and off it. Before, during and after the game he showed why he’s The Man.
What a performance.
I did a piece during the week I think it was where I talked about the Ibrox managers and how the media has loved these guys and how Celtic bosses never get that credit although we’ve had exceptional men – not just managers but men – in the dugout, people of the highest quality on a personal level, good, genuine decent human beings.
Rodgers is one of those guys, but even accounting for Ange Postecoglou and Martin O’Neill he’s also the best media performer we’ve had here in my lifetime.
He loves being in front of the media, partly, I think, because he handles them like a master.
So last night before the game they wanted to ask him about the fans. He kept the subject fixed firmly where it belonged, on the game and the players and the importance of the night. That’s where the focus of everyone inside the dressing room and the coaching team was and he wasn’t going to discuss anything else with the press.
During the game I cannot think of a decision he got wrong.
One of the reasons I was so delighted to see Brendan return is that he is a tactical genius, and can change a game mid-match better than any boss of the club I’ve ever seen, and last night he did it again at a point in the game where they had all the ball and looked like they might get in front, and from there you got the sinking feeling they might have scored a few more. He saw what he had to do to stop it.
And he made the changes that did stop that.
It seems counter-intuitive to substitute an attacking player for a defensive one if you’re at home and need a win, but before he made that change, we had ceased to be an attacking force anyway as they were pressing so high.
That’s was the pattern we needed to break and the system and the players in it weren’t going to do that, we’d have invited pressure until we conceded the third.
So, he shifted things around.
Going to three at the back allowed us to play two through the middle, and suddenly they had something to think about again as our fullbacks got up the pitch and Callum dropped deeper and the three centre backs held their forwards at bay.
Suddenly we weren’t pegged back anymore, their midfield again had holes in it and we were threatening again without having given anything away.
It was masterful, more than just shuffling the players as other managers have done, more than like-for-like changes.
In the aftermath of the game the only thing it seemed to me that some of the hacks wanted to do was find a negative.
Oh, but it was only a draw and we needed a win. Had he seen the Lazio score? What did that mean for us in Europe? Was this run of no wins ever going to end?
He looked genuinely affronted by those questions and others.
And he made sure not to answer a one of them, making it clear that all he wanted to discuss was the quality of the performance on the night.
Not its implications, not a record for which he is only partly responsible, or any of the other stuff which is important and good for the gossips but actually does nothing but take the credit away from the players.
He wasn’t going to permit that and I was delighted that he didn’t.
“The team and the performance is what I’m focused on and interested in,” he said. “We’ve taken our first point, arguably we should have more. But my focus is on the performance and I thought it was outstanding.”
What quality this man has, and I hope he continues to keep the focus on the good things we’re doing rather than being dragged where the hacks want him to go.
This team deserves better than to let anything overshadow the way we’re playing right now.