Rodgers Set This Week Up Perfectly For Celtic As Clement’s Deranged Outburst Proves.

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The next seven days will be dominated, at Celtic at least, with calm and discipline and preparation, preparation, preparation. People sometimes wonder what it is that elite managers do all week before games. It is in the unseen moments, the stuff in the background, where their true strengths lie, and Rodgers has talked about this at length at various times.

His job, he says, is to keep the pressure off the players as much as he can. To keep their focus only on the reality of three more points. Of getting another step closer. He is quite brilliant at that, and one of the ways he does it is to put the pressure on the other side. He is very good at throwing them off their game, in getting a rise out of them.

Yesterday, in his post-match presser, Rodgers referred to how next weekend we’re going to “have some fun.” Now, any neutral listening to that would have concluded that he’s saying we’re going to try to enjoy the occasion and the game. It’s not a controversial comment, on the surface of it.

I was the presser yesterday and that comment passed me by, until I got home and thought about it, and I only did that after the meltdown on the Ibrox fan forums over it, and it was then that I realised that when Rodgers talked about the next week being “80% mentality” that this was part of that, and that he had just done something absolutely exceptional.

He had found a way into their heads, to make the next week at Ibrox about us rather than them. And that is sensational stuff. This is what it is that elite managers do.

Not only was it a clear expression of confidence in the players and in the fans, and in his coaches and in his own ability, it was exactly what you want from a manager going into a high-pressure match; his way of saying, “Look, this doesn’t rattle me at all.”

All season long, a big part of the narrative against Rodgers is that he was experiencing a new level of pressure and a new type of challenge. I’ve heard variations of the theme that this has shaken Rodgers to his core, that he had lost the swagger, that he was deeply afraid that the Ibrox club was going to put him to the test.

I’ve read that Rodgers was running scared and would seek to get out of Parkhead at the end of the season so as not to have to deal with this.

Those same people are now accusing him of over-confidence bordering on arrogance.

And that’s exactly the reaction he was hoping for yesterday.

He knows what he’s doing, and he knows how to do it as well as anyone who’s ever been at Celtic Park.

Rodgers’ has a background in neurolinguistics; that has always interested and amused me. Because on one level, it’s a cheap parlour trick.

There’s a book called The Game by a guy called Neil Strauss, about the pick-up scene, and neurolinguistics is basically what that book is about.

The so-called “pick-up artists” use a variety of verbal and non-verbal cues to get women to sleep with them … it’s pretty seedy stuff for the most part, but what intrigued me about the whole thing is that these guys used to attend seminars run by a guy called Ross Jeffries; Jeffries is like the godfather of the pick-up scene, and he was the guy who pioneered the parlour trick.

You can imagine what one of those seminars was like; a lot of hopeless individuals paying hundreds of dollars to make them even less appealing to most women. Pretty poor stuff overall. But at the back of those rooms were a different category of observer altogether; people from law enforcement, successful businesses, the intelligence agencies, the military and other high-powered professions and sectors. Because if there is a trick to getting people to do what you want them to do, that trick would be handy to have in the hands of serious folks.

I came across Jeffries, and thus Strauss’s book, whilst researching “charismatic leadership”, initially, I think, about an article on Martin O’Neill, but also because that has always interested me anyway, because of my time as a political activist, where I met a lot of influential people and sometimes left those meetings wondering what all the fuss was about.

What makes certain political techniques work? What is “charisma” and is it something that, as some motivational speakers would have you believe, can be taught to you? Or is that stuff ingrained, is it part of your DNA, and thus impossible to replicate?

And why does charismatic leadership matter? It’s not essential for success.

Certain political types are fascinating to me; guys like Obama and Clinton … I was fascinated by Reagan for years. Yet other political types, like Nixon, May, like Starmer to a degree, like Major … these don’t seem to be the sorts of people who can dominate a room, and yet some of them have gone far, and done well, and sat atop huge power structures.

Nixon might well be the best example of non-charismatic leadership we’ve ever seen. He was a massive political figure, an intellectual heavyweight and a superb campaigner … but in one-on-one situations, even in his relationships with his own staff, he was a train wreck.

One of the people who I met during my time as an activist was, of course, Gordon Brown; he was terrible at meeting people, and the times I met him, I always found him very formal, and stiff, and … just oddly unengaging.

When I read Andrew Rawnsley’s books on the Labour government of 1997-2010 I saw in his portrait of Brown that my own odd feelings about him been essentially correct; he was like that with almost everybody, unless he knew you really well.

Charismatic leadership? These guys didn’t have that. They were exceptionally gifted, and definitely brilliant – Brown will probably forever be the smartest person that I ever meet and speak to in person – but it would have been hard, on a first impression, to wholly understand why and how they ever got to where they did.

So, if not charismatic leadership, what did these people know?

The parlour trick can certainly be taught; Jeffries has made a lot of money out of it, and Strauss’s book was atop the New York Times bestsellers list for a while after it came out. Strauss himself got so good at the parlour trick that his rampant egotism destroyed his own personal life which ended up a complete disaster area, as he shattered the trust of virtually every person who knew him. But he was a walking testament to its successful application.

Then there is Boris Johnson who I think more and more is a guy who has lived his whole life as a parlour trick; almost none of his alleged spontaneity is real. That “how the Hell did I get here” schtick of his is a complete façade, and it can still con people to this day, although most folk now see it for exactly what it is.

Whatever Rodgers learned when studying neurolinguistics, he put to a much more productive and benevolent use.

Players who’ve played under him talk about what a genius he is in getting them to run through walls. They’ve praised his team talks, and his one-on-ones – he is certainly a “charismatic leadership” type – but above all else, they talk about how good he makes them feel about themselves. This is a critical skill in anybody who seeks to motivate other people, and that’s how you know that Rodgers is not the parlour trick performer.

Because much of the pick-up art actually involves degradation.

Believe it or not, that’s one of the tricks Jeffries teaches about how guys can get women; a compliment followed by an insult. Talk them up, then talk them down. Highlight their flaws. It sounds too ridiculous to possibly work, but what Jeffries doesn’t explicitly say, but which everyone in the field understands, is that it only works on a certain sort of person … one who is excessively aware of their own vulnerabilities and overthinks what they think of as their own negative traits.

So, it is seedy and it is underhanded and it is cheap, lower-order behaviour.

But it’s also the reason that detectives and interrogators have studied the parlour trick, to probe and break down suspects, it’s the origin story for “good cop, bad cop” and in their hands it’s even more devastating. Which is all to the good considering what it is that they do.

And see, the point of this, the thing to realise, is that these guys master the art, not just one aspect of it, not just one bit.

It’s in how you use it; you can use it to build people up or to break them down. The same technique as cracks a suspect in the interrogation room also gets reluctant witnesses to give evidence, and can convince a jury to acquit or convict. The blade cuts both ways, and so the same Brendan Rodgers who can inspire a dressing room can also plant a seed in another one, a seed of a much more destructive nature.

It means that he can use that skill to burrow into the heads of people who are already wracked with uncertainty and self-doubt, and we all know that’s a rampant mind-set in that Ibrox dressing room. They will feel the pressure bearing down on them all next week.

And there’s Rodgers, telling our players to have fun.

He’s projecting confidence … and in doing so, he knows full well the impact it will have elsewhere.

This stuff is brutally effective when done right.

And today we saw that worm of doubt burst forth, in spectacular fashion, during the Ibrox manager’s post-match press conference.

Oh, what joy! Oh, what a wonderous reaction that was.

An off-the-charts self-detonation, the proof that Rodgers hit the bullseye with his exquisite remarks, and the guarantee that we will live in their heads, rent free, for the whole of the coming week, a week when they need to be disciplined and calm.

“We hear they are going to have fun, we will have fun also,” he told the media.

Oh, but we already are, and that he reacted at all gave us our first taste of it.

That was sensational enough, but to then go to other outlets and wail and whinge about disrespect, and how they’d love to be playing us tomorrow … this is a meltdown, and over what? It’s like Kevin Keegan’s incredible folly, ranting like a maniac about Alex Ferguson at the height of a close title race in which the wily Man Utd boss just kept cool and did his stuff and got his team over the line.

Who was it clearly feeling the strain? Who cracked up under it, in front of the cameras?

That’s what happened today. That’s why Rodgers did what he did yesterday with his “all is calm at Celtic” press conference, and his talk of how in the next week “80%” it will be about “mentality.”

It already was, with him sitting there, and casually throwing his grenade.

Look how they’ve reacted; like spoiled brats, like people feeling the pressure.

All over a handful of words, and delivered calmly, with one specific phrase.

Rodgers has played Clement like a fiddle here.

It is beautiful.

The whole of this week their whole focus will be on us and on payback and on settling the score.

It will be all aggression, all adrenaline, all sound and, especially, fury.

Calm? A period to sit and think and analyse and carefully take note and stock?

There’ll be not one bit of that, and this is exactly where we want their heads to be.

All focus lost to anger. All discipline erased to accommodate a mad thirst for revenge.

Whatever preparation they might have had, it’s all been upended by Brendan Rodgers, not in some move of tactical brilliance on the pitch but by a few perfect words in front of a handful of hacks and fan media.

Our own preparation will also be all focussed on us.

That’s where it needs to be.

On what we will do right. On how we will keep cool and feed off the crowd, and put our best foot forward. Rodgers has lifted every bit of pressure off the shoulders of the players in that simple suggestion that we will enjoy the moment and have some fun.

80% mentality.

This, my friends, is exactly what elite managers do.

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  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    Brendan has Rodgersd The Sevco Huns !!!

  • Joe McQuaid says:

    I get the mind games James, but how successful they are I guess we will find out next weekend. Having said that, very happy with how we go into this week with what looks like a fully fit squad and key players finding top form.
    Maybe at the end of the season we will just have to accept that BR is a lucky man…

  • Saulgoodman says:

    I hate to be a after timer , Kevin clancy staring at that shankland hand ball ? Thank fuck for v a r , be afraid be very afraid

  • Gary says:

    Every article I click on of yours is far too long these days. I either see before hand it’s far too long and don’t read it or I get two third of the way through and can’t be bothered reading any more. I’d like to see you bring back the audio option if possible for these extended articles. Thanks.

    • James Forrest says:

      Well sorry I don’t hold your attention lol.

      The audio option is SADLY missed. I want to find out if we can get that back.

      So yeah, I’ll ask about that. I feel like it added value.

  • Kevan McKeown says:

    The media in the comin days, are gonnae be lookin for any way they can find, tae extra motivate that lot and get them fired up. Personally, ahm hopin we don’t hear any of this ‘we’re gonnae dae this and that’ from our support. Nothins certain and it’ll take care of itself. Tho If the right Celtic show up, we’re well capable of gettin this result.

    • William Melvin says:

      100% Kevan !
      Lets do our talking on the pitch ,where it matters.
      The amount of times l have cringed when our players have,in the past,come out and said how good they were and what they were gonna do……Only to get their arses handed to them.
      I hope Brendan has his orders firmly laid down that when speaking to the SMSM we show a deference to next weekend’s opponents and mibbe actually bum them up.
      The huns love nothing better than to be told how superior they are so let’s not disappoint (where do l keep hearing that word recently? ) them and let them think we in awe of their great team.
      Only problem will be getting a carpenter in on quick notice to widen the huns dressing room door to get Cantwell’s heid through it !
      Let’s go out there on Saturday and school these bastards and all but kill their dreams while achieving ours at the same time.
      C’mon the Hoops !!!

  • Gerry says:

    Good article James…B Rodgers is a very clever and articulate man…befitting the traits of an elite manager.

    Regardless of how his words may be interpreted by our wonderful smsm and Phil of Clement, he has always treated opponents with due respect and courtesy.

    Let the Sevco manager and his sycophantic lapdogs howl with rage, at what they may perceive as disrespect! Our team and manager have had their credentials questioned all season.

    We have three games left, of a season that has been arduous and frustrating, to put it mildly. We’ve questioned our manager, our players, our tactics, our bottle et al.

    We have the biggest game of our season this Saturday v Sevco, which if we win, will almost certainly, be a title winning victory!

    If we do triumph, which I’m certain we shall, it will be fully merited and deserved.

    We will have won it in the face of all adversity we’ve faced this season…injuries, lack of consistency, poor performances, “incompetent officials,” and a hostile smsm!

    So, if BR’s words have filtered into Phil of Clement’s head, and forced him to howl even louder at the moon, then he has done his job!

    After watching our team dispatch the Jam Tarts on Saturday, I have no doubt that our elite manager’s team, will enjoy having ‘fun,’ at the expense of the belligerent Bears, this week !

    That is not arrogance…just confidence in a team and manager that know how to perform, when required!

  • The great jc says:

    A fine read James.

    It all sounds great to my ears and sincerely hope Brendan’s mind games comes to fruition on Saturday, but would suggest us be aware that these tactics often evoke an unprecedented backlash that can come home to bite…

    i remember an old boss once say to a fellow electrician if you bare your arse,as sure as hell is hot, there will always be someone come along and kick it !!

    Ps:The audio facilty was great listening while working in my garden…Bring it back please.

  • Tony B says:

    A bit of devilment to keep them unbalanced, delivered with a cheeky smile – nice one.

    The animal poking apart, I am in no doubt that if Celtic keeps 11 players on the park victory is highly likely.

  • Kevin Dunne says:

    Clemmont id just another in a long line of glove puppets that,s controlled by the dummy cards he reads from , an adopted govanite gobshite that will join the ranks of SEVCO long list of dead wood managers .

  • Bernie Godzik says:

    What a great piece James,
    You have captured the whole situation perfectly.

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