The Celtic Boss Knows His Great Record Against Ibrox So Far Means Nothing At All This Weekend.

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The greatest honour, the greatest achievement, that could be bestowed on a Roman leader, short of ascending to the consulship, was to be afforded the honour of a Triumph.

It was such a privilege that generals who did not get one when they thought they deserved it would refuse to re-enter the city, and sit outside it with their legions, sometimes for many years. Because Rome did not permit soldiers to enter the city; you lost your military rank the moment you did so, and so if you were a general and you lost your “imperium”, the Triumph you thought you deserved was forever gone, forever out of reach.

Cicero, the great statesman, only ever saw one general walk away from his Triumph; it was Julius Caesar. He was entitled to one for his victories in Hispania. But he wanted to run for consul, and so his political rivals blocked his Triumph in the belief that he would do as others had done, and halt outside the city until he got the honour. Days later, Cicero and the other senators who had tried to imprison him in that dilemma were amazed to see him walk into the senate chamber, in his toga, and take his seat in his former spot. He ran for consul, and won.

He understood what the greater accomplishment was. He played the long game. Brendan Rodgers plays the long game. During a Triumph, the successful general would ride in a golden chariot, wearing a floral crown. A slave would stand behind him, and whisper into his ear … “Remember you are just a man … and all glory is fleeting.”

Nobody has to tell Rodgers that. He was sacked by Liverpool when he was the first manager in decades to get them within touching distance of a championship. But for Steven Gerrard’s ridiculous slip, he would have done it. He won two trebles here and was on course for the third when the Celtic board put him in a dilemma of his own. Rodgers was never going to allow some bean-counter to muck him about. He knew he could have gotten 3Treble and gone down as one of the best managers in our history. He left for Leicester instead, and won them an FA Cup. He got them to a European semi-final. They sacked him anyway.

This morning, I read a fascinating piece on his record against the Ibrox club. It is, of course, formidable. It is, in fact, outstanding. If he was a Roman general, he’d have had more than one Triumph for a record like that. Managers have to settle for open-top bus rides. He’s had that here, and in England. I think he’ll have that in Scotland again.

But you know how Rodgers is going to get it? By doing as Caesar did when he walked into the senate house that day and sacrificed one honour for another one. Rodgers can best defend his record by forgetting about it. Not resting on it but by building on it. He is not the sort to dwell on past glories. He is forever looking ahead, dreaming of the future ones.

If you listen to Clement, he talks a lot about the past. The things he’s done elsewhere. His club is obsessed with the past, that’s why it’s fixated on the number 56; that’s not looking at the future, that’s clinging on to what’s come before, and clinging on tight because they have to, as they aren’t even their trophies and titles.

Their club is about to honour Walter Smith with a statue outside the ground. The Romans put up a lot of statues. Celtic has four outside Paradise. There’s nothing wrong with statues per se; they honour the past, but their club lives in the past, someone else’s at that, and that statue is not there to inspire people but to loom over future managers with what they think their club was … they don’t even properly understand that, though.

The club they’re talking about was Rangers. It was a shadow on the wall, a phantom, a distortion of reality. Without the financial institution which bankrolled Murray’s mad fantasies the world would barely know who Walter Smith was. He played as large a role as anyone did in killing Rangers stone dead. Honouring him seems insane.

Rodgers talks about the future. The next game. The next prize. He talks about building a better Celtic; his legacy is not what is behind him but what he thinks might be in front of him. He still believes that his best days, his greatest days, at Celtic are still to come and if he gets the tools he will do that job. He will accomplish much, much more than he has already.

That record against the Ibrox club could be a weight on his shoulders if he let it, just like the record he had of winning every trophy he’s contested here. I genuinely do believe that brought with it a strange kind of burden, and one that I think he was, at least in part, relieved to have been able to set down. Because as long as that record lasted, the weight of it would just have grown and grown, and eventually it was going to end. Past glory can be a ball and chain for a manager. It binds you to it, instead of letting you break free and move towards new success.

There are some things he can’t shake, and won’t shake, and he knows that and he has to deal with those things as best he can. That record against Ibrox exists, and it will be talked about as long as he’s here and he’s winning and hopefully that record will keep getting better and better. The list of Ibrox managers he’s seen off the premises is long. It will get longer if he delivers the double. Clement will be the next trophy on his wall, that’s almost a certainty.

16 derbies. Just one loss. Five Ibrox managers gone already at his hand. This is the record. And the way to improve on it is to set it aside and focus on making it 17 with one loss, and to do the work that will assure another managerial scalp.

Yeah, he’s entitled to gloat over that record. But he won’t.

What good would that do us, or him?

He’s entitled to be proud of it, but the sound of Celtic Park singing his name and knowing he’s got another line in our illustrious history books is the greater honour here, and he recognises that.

A man who spends his time smiling over what he’s done isn’t busy preparing to do the next thing and the thing after that; Lucius Licinius Lucullus spent years outside Rome waiting on his Triumph instead of playing a full role in the Republic’s political life. Instead of continuing to exert influence (he had been a consul prior to his military command, and could have been re-elected to that post) he built himself a vast mansion which became famous for its fish pools.

Rodgers was meant to take a year out of the game, but he returned to Celtic instead, and he knew what the pressures would be and what the expectations would be … the Rodgers we watched in that CelticTV interview yesterday was not in the least bit fazed by any of it.

He, like Caesar walking into the senate to formally declare himself as a consular candidate, has his eyes on the future instead of the past.

That’s why I think we’re going to enjoy our weekend.

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  • Kevan McKeown says:

    Definitely no ma thing, tho yer always goin tae get predictions and over confidence from some supporters and in these games ye can never tell. In terms of league importance, this one tomorrow’s as big as it gets. If we show up the way we can, we’re well capable of gettin the result. HH.

  • Roonsa says:

    Hail Brendan Caesar.

    I am fairly certain that Celtic will go for the jugular early on like they did last week against the Jambos. Couple of early goals, totally demoralise them and watch their discipline disintegrate.

    Of course, I am ready for anything. That lot might go for the early goal too to catch us on the hop. If they do and succeed, game on.

    All I can be confident in is that Celtic will turn up tomorrow. I am sure of that. We’ll have the majority of possessions and chances. A draw won’t be a disaster. It will mean 4 from 6 in the last 2 games wins it.

    The key, therefore, is to avoid defeat at all costs. Their next game is at home to Dundee which will give them ample opportunity (ref assisted obviously) to score plenty. You can be sure of that happening.

    I am saying this now. If they win tomorrow, they will win the League. We cannot afford to lose.

    I can’t see it happening though.

  • Kevan McKeown says:

    Definitely no my thing, tho yer always gonnae have predictions and over-confidence from some supporters and in these games ye can never tell. As far as league importance goes, it disnae get much bigger than this one tomorrow. If we show up the way we can, we’re well capable of gettin the result. HH.

  • Michael Collins says:

    Was Walter Smith not sacked the season we stopped their ten? He had a bad record in Europe, so Minty Murray got rid of him in a nice way the same way he “sacked” a few managers, then brought in Dick Advocaat and we all know how that ended up.
    So why the statue?

  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    I remember 37 & a half years ago going into the New Year’s Day game (what’s known now as The Glasgow Derby but was known as something else back then) and Celtic were NINE points ahead and me and a Celtic supporting buddy were taunting two ‘Rangers’ as they were known then (I call them that because they were a bit nicer than Huns) with Championees – Championees – Ole, Ole, Ole…

    And so listening in to the game with a 16 year old lads hangover from hell in ma late wee granny’s house, we proceeded to lose 2-0 at Liebrox and down to seven points it was a week later we draw and they win and it’s down to six and so the shitshow goes on and we lost the league by six points and granted them their first title in my football living memory…

    The point is after being so confident it was such a crushing disappointment and from that day on from many moons ago I vowed never to be cocky about Celtic ever again and I’ve stuck to that mantra and I’m glad that I have and it has served me well personally…

    That’s why I never understood The psyche of The Sevco Huns – They have this ultra confident mentality at ALL times and what the hell it must feel like this almost quarter of a century of Celtic domination is mind bending…

    But bloody hell its a very happy mind bending for me enjoying their grief and pain unless they have some sort of mental block button that kicks in and tells them ‘It didn’t actually happen’ –

    I am delighted with Celtic’s calm and low key build up as per always and I’m sure Brendan will be well self briefed about what to expect in today’s press conference from The Scummy Scottish Football Media !

  • Effarr says:

    A Celtic win tomorrow will be all the sweeter if it means we see Julius Rodgers doing a lap
    of honour in a Parks of Hamilton chariot wearing a toga while big Clemente heads for the airport to buy a single journey ticket to Belgium. I wonder if they do togas in Peter`s width.

  • Brattbakk says:

    Brilliant James, whole article brought a smile to my face. I hope tomorrow does too. Rodgers has done very well winning people over again so far. I admit to not being convinced that he would turn it round but he’s almost done it. Get the trophies in!

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