Brendan Rodgers has the support of the vast, vast majority of Celtic fans. I am sure of it. The man is a top class coach and he is moving us in his own direction and by the time we get there we’ll all have seen the benefits of his tenure.
We will see at least some of them before this season is out, when we secure another league title. That’s what we brought him back for.
But Brendan Rodgers knows that there is a section of the support which will never forgive nor forget. Hell, I won’t forget myself.
I sat at his press conference when he came back and listened with great interest as he said he’d be here for the full three years unless he was fired. To me, that’s a rock-solid commitment which he cannot escape from. Having said those words, he is glued to them. To betray that, at any point, would end his relationship with us entirely.
To others, those are just words and the suspicion remains that if the right job south of the border made itself available that Rodgers would go without even a backwards glance. I don’t think so. I don’t think he would get away with that and he knows it.
Yet for that section of our support still raging at his departure for Leicester, he will always be That Person, that person who broke their hearts, the partner who cheated on them, the one who jilted them at the altar.
That’s a hard hurt, man, that’s tough to take. Some people can get over that, but it takes a while. Other people never do, and that’s the section of our support who Brendan Rodgers is going to have to reckon with the whole time he is here.
So I understand why last night has re-opened some wounds.
I understand why those who never wanted him back here are willing to latch onto it as a means of justifying that emotion. I also get why other people think that he’s not the same manager that he was; of course, he isn’t.
Rodgers is older, hardened by the turn his time at Leicester eventually took, but I think he’s come back smarter and better and that will be all to the good.
I’ve read a lot of criticism about his tactics last night. I won’t go there. To suggest that we should play eleven men behind the ball in Europe is as defeatist as the attitudes of those clubs who do that to us in the league.
I also think it’s unfair to pour such scorn on him for last night when last night was an exceptional one in terms of how it happened.
Maeda was the worst possible player to be sent off.
So much of our football comes down his side of the pitch, his energy and aggression are key to every facet of our game, because he pulls players out of position, he makes them work hard, he runs them into the ground. I would have rather we lost any other player but him.
I also think had we got into the half-time break with only a one goal deficit that we’d have put up a second half fight. Maybe we’d still have gone down heavily, but it would not have been a complete surrender.
It’s the second goal that does that, and Rodgers didn’t get a chance to restructure the team with anything meaningful at stake.
The circumstances of the first half were dreadful. It ended any chance we had of making a proper go of it, and dictated Rodgers second half changes, which were all about giving people experience at that level and protecting our key players for Sunday.
So whilst I agree that the result and performance levels were wholly unacceptable, I am not ready to put the boot into the boss as a result of that fixture, and I’m not surprised in the least how much criticism there is of it.
I just believe a lot of it has nothing to do with him as a manager, but is more about the anger a lot of people are hanging onto.
Remember, this is a guy who is basically working with a team custom built for someone else. Without his own signings, brought in to fit into what he’s trying to do, how can he be properly judged on the big stage of Europe?
Next season, perhaps. Not this one.
A glance at results might convince people that we’re no further forward than last year. In some ways we aren’t but in others there has been clear progress. We rocked Lazio and Atletico at home, and on another day might have got wins in both games. Would we have lost 6-0 last night with eleven men?
Absolutely not, I don’t believe it for a minute.
So that’s progress, and it’s come about partly because we’re not going all-in and gung-ho trying to outscore the opposition no matter what state that leaves us in at the back. I know people want to see formation changes, but do we have the squad to do that? Where would we test it? Against SPFL sides who won’t come out of their penalty boxes?
We play in Scotland. That’s hardly the right environment to test out strategies for Europe. Rodgers isn’t a miracle worker.
It would be tremendously risky to throw players together in an untested system for a game like last night … this stuff has to be finessed, and done carefully. It is going to take time. That’s why Rodgers’ claim that he will be here until he’s punted is particularly interesting. Will he stay beyond three years? He should if he wants a real legacy.
In the meantime, I have no problem with the game being “taken in isolation” as he has already put it. The circumstances were not ideal.
The start was as bad as it could have been. The team needs to learn to keep its cool on that stage, and as I said the other day it would be a good idea to consider a full-time sports psychology department at Lennoxtown.
I’m not going to give the boss too hard a time over that.
He will get criticism when he deserves it, but the self-destruction of that team last night had very little to do with him. Part of it is the way we seem to come apart under pressure on that stage and part of it is that we are never adequately prepared because Scottish clubs don’t put us under pressure enough.
I don’t know how our manager changes that, but he and the club have to come up with something, they have to find ways.
Harder pre-season schedules where we can experiment with new systems would be one way to go … but in order to do that the transfer business has to be done early or it’s just a waste of time. We are hamstrung by our own policies at times.
There are things we have to do better and there are things that we simply have to do. I am still convinced that the right man is at the helm. He needs time and support – support from the stands and from the director’s box both.
When Rodgers screws up I’ll be the first one to be critical.
I think he’s let himself down in letting others design his transfer strategy … and that’s cost him and us this summer. But right now, we need to let that man work and get this team back on its feet, even those of us who still expect him to depart the moment a club in the Promised Land flutters its metaphorical eyelashes at him.
He’s here right now, and we’ve got to give him the backing.