Reading the comments from Celtic players this week, in the aftermath of the manager’s anger over the weekend, has been an eye-opener.
It’s been a proper insight into the man and to the squad itself. The most important thing to note is that nobody is having a nutty over it; on the contrary. They are genuinely stung and doing a little self-reflection.
That’s brilliant. And it shows you how rarely, how very rarely, Rodgers has to go full on tonto in the dressing room. There are managers out there – a few of them have coached across the city, and there might even be one of them there right now – who believe that ruling by fear is an effective strategy. It is not. It never has been. It never will be.
Rodgers is such a good man manager that this has hit the players exactly as it was meant to. These things can go wrong in lesser hands, but it’s hit the bullseye.
The players responded perfectly to it at the weekend and we can hope that they’ll carry that forward into tonight. They have behaved like men; they’ve took their medicine and they dug deep.
That’s such a promising sign. And it helps, of course, that the criticism was in no way gratuitous. They did play pedestrian football in that first half. They did look like they were just going through the motions. The speed and the aggression were simply not there. You saw the difference in the players in the second half, and Callum in particular … they went for it.
So it got through. All of it. And listening to them this week, they are still smarting from it, they all feel as if they’ve got to prove themselves again.
That’s brilliant. Because this squad should feel on edge, all the time, and they won’t soon forget whatever it was Rodgers said, and that will keep them motivated.
When the injured players come back everyone will be playing for his place. When we’ve signed some talent then it will be even more obvious that coasting is a bad, bad idea.
Our defensive players have learned that already.
Rodgers is not the sort of manager who will coddle people. He cares about his footballers, believes he has a duty of care to them, but he will not soft-soap them or sugar-coat his intentions. He can be ruthless, but in the way that footballers have been dealing with for their whole lives. The team comes first.
But it’s clear that he went beyond that at the weekends and asked them to consider their character. Do they want to be a team that sees a league lead like this slip away? Are they content to just turn up in games, or do they want to push on and be their best selves?
I like that he’s made them think things like that, but gladder that they’ve responded well. In the end, this could be the making of this particular team under this particular manager. He came in to someone else’s squad and wants to impose his own mark on it.
He’s taken a big step towards that and his players are handling it the right way, although it’s surprised them and maybe even shaken some. That’s not a bad thing.
It might be the best thing to happen to us since he took over.
There will be no more complacency, that much is for damned sure.