Tuesday 12 December 2017

Rodgers' Hoops ready for first day of big school

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers. Photo: PA
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers. Photo: PA

Roddy Forsyth

Form is temporary and class is permanent - but first day in class is a unique life occasion, as Brendan Rodgers has acknowledged ahead of Celtic's crucial Champions League play-off first-leg tie at home to Hapoel Beer-Sheva.

As Celtic attempt to force the doors of the tournament their fans crave, Rodgers insisted that the dads in his squad whose kids are first-time pupils should be present at the school gates.

Scottish schools are back from holiday this week and Leigh Griffiths - who has two children born 11 days apart, both of whom are newly enrolled - was grateful to Rodgers for holding training back to let him witness the landmark occasions for son Rhys and daughter Kacie.

"The gaffer's man-management skills are great," said the striker.

Rodgers explained: "Family is so important. Your kid going to school for the very first day, you never get it back ever in your lifetime. They are fathers, not just footballers."

That said, Rodgers is entirely aware that this the whole season could hang on this fixture against the Israeli champions. European disappointments under Ronny Deila disenchanted the fans.

"These are huge games," said Rodgers, who had dinner with Deila's predecessor Neil Lennon recently. "You can sense it when you drive up to the stadium. Everyone will sense the size of the occasion. You have to stay calm."

As usual, Celtic's priority is to emerge unscathed from the first leg. A bonus would be a lead of sufficient margin to reduce the hazard of a return leg on the edge of the Negev Desert.

It may be only the start of a new term but, if they bring home a favourable report card this evening, the prospect of graduation to the class of Champions League participants will come tantalisingly close. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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