When Brendan Rodgers was appointed as Celtic’s new first team manager during the summer, he arrived with the challenge of rebuilding his own reputation and prestige as much as that of rejuvenating Scotland’s leading domestic club team.
For a man that came within a Steven Gerrard slip of claiming the English Premier League title with Liverpool the Northern Irishman’s time on Merseyside is widely perceived to have been little more than a glorious failure. For some, his success was simply accredited to the fact that he inherited a world-class striker, in the form of Luis Suarez, and that the Uruguayan’s departure and subsequent poor investment in the transfer market exposed Rodgers for the average manager that some in football assume him to be.
This view is viciously harsh on Rodgers. Whilst he may not have succeeded in bringing silverware to Anfield, something that Jurgen Klopp is currently threatening to do, it is important not to forget his accomplishments with Swansea City. In South Wales there was a relative despair when they failed to induce the Northern Irishman back to the club where his reputation for playing attractive, effective, possession-based football had first begun to be developed. However, whatever repute and prestige Rodgers had earned at Swansea was all but forgotten when Liverpool chose to cast him aside.
The Hoops may have won five domestic titles in a row, largely aided by the financial chaos that came to the fore at cross-city rivals Rangers, but there remained an air of discontent around the club. While Ronny Deila may have claimed successive titles, his inability to secure domestic Cup trophies and lead Celtic into the group stage of the Champions League created frustration, as did the relatively simply and at times unattractive playing style adopted.
A manager who needed to re-build his reputation. A club that required re-enthusing. Maybe the 13,000 Celtic supporters that attended Rodgers’ unveiling as manager foresaw the immediate success that he would bring to the Hoops.
Celtic’s 3-0 win over Inverness means that the reigning champions currently hold a ten-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League, the largest in history at this stage of the season. If you add in the fact that they also have a game in hand and a double-figure positive goal difference then it would not be unfair to summarise that they have effectively lapped the remainder of the league.
The statistics under Rodgers are astonishing, even by Celtic’s high standards. The club are unbeaten domestically and have already reached one Cup final. In the league, they have played 11 games, dropping just two points, and have scored 34 goals. At the other end of the pitch they have conceded just 8 times and have kept clean sheets in all of their last six domestic fixtures. In short, the Hoops are currently a steam train that shows no signs of being derailed or halted any time soon.
So far this campaign the only defeats that Celtic have experienced have come in Europe. However, the fact that Rodgers has guided the club into the Champions League group stage is a major positive, both in terms of prestige and financial benefits, and with two matches still left to play the club still has an opportunity to claim a Europa League spot. In a group that contains Manchester City and Barcelona, that is a relative success story for his first attempt.
Rodgers has also flourished in re-energising the group of players that he inherited and has introduced a more dominant, aesthetically appealing brand of football. In Saturday’s victory at Inverness the starting eleven consisted of nine players that the Northern Irishman inherited and the impact that he has had on the existing group of players is characterised by the re-emergence of Scott Brown. The captain looks re-born under the guidance of Rodgers and the outstanding performances that he has subsequently produced in the centre of midfield have resulted in a re-call for the international team. Add in the impact of the new arrivals of Moussa Dembele (16 goals so far) and Scott Sinclair (10 goals) and you begin to understand why Celtic are starting to look so dominant.
There are currently two questions currently being asked in Scottish football. (a) Will Celtic win the treble? And (b) will Celtic go an entire league campaign unbeaten? It is a sign of Brendan Rodgers’ impact at the club that the Hoops once again have an invincible air about them and the Northern Irishman’s attempt at rebuilding his own reputation is currently in full swing in Glasgow.
Feature Image: All Rights Reserved Paul Donnelly (Paul Donnelly)