Wednesday 24 January 2018

Rodgers must hit ground running as Celtic get their man

Progress in Europe likely to define new manager's time in Parkhead hot-seat

Brendan Rodgers Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Brendan Rodgers Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Roddy Forsyth

The spirit of Jock Stein could be discerned in the confirmation of Scottish football's worst-kept secret - that Brendan Rodgers would be Celtic's next manager.

Stein made a point of feeding headline news from Celtic just when Rangers felt sure that they commanded the news agenda and the Hoops' greatest manager would have approved of the decision to release tidings of Rodgers' appointment on the eve of a Scottish Cup final that could see the Ibrox side qualify for Europe for the first time since the financial meltdown in 2012.

In truth, Rodgers' position was effectively secured when Dermot Desmond praised him publicly earlier this week. "He's a great manager," said the club's main shareholder. "He's proved it at Liverpool and I think he's a worthy candidate for Celtic."

Rodgers is understood to have hoped for another position in the Premier League following his sacking by Liverpool last October but, buttressed by a very favourable compensation deal from Anfield, he has been lured to Scotland by the possibility of taking Celtic back into the Champions League group stage and, of course, meeting whatever challenge Rangers can present upon their return to the top tier of the game in Scotland.

Rodgers' challenges begin immediately. The Parkhead squad is not only too big, but it has not been fit for the purpose of emulating the feat of Rodgers' fellow Northern Irishman, Neil Lennon, in defeating Barcelona in November 2012.

Celtic's first European qualifier comes up on July 12-13 and a bright beginning would be of great value to Rodgers, not to mention the club's accountants.

The 43-year-old will be employed on a 12-month rolling contract - the same arrangement that was applied to Lennon and Ronny Deila.

Rodgers' salary, however, is understood to be significantly greater than those of either if his two predecessors and he will also be able to spend up to £15m on strengthening the squad - a meagre budget by Premier League standards but sufficient for major signings at Scottish level.

Rodgers will appear in person at Celtic Park on Monday when he may indicate what role he plans for former Doengal manager Jim McGuinness, who worked closely with Deila.

In the meantime, his initial response on the club's website was predictably joyous. "I am absolutely delighted to be named Celtic manager," he said.

"This is a huge honour for me. I have followed Celtic all my life and to be given this fantastic opportunity and to be part of such a truly great football club is a dream come true.

"I will give my new role everything I have to bring our supporters exciting, entertaining and winning football.

"I know what a magnificent support Celtic enjoys and I will be doing everything I can to give you a team that you can be proud of and a team that delivers. I can't wait to be in Paradise with our team and our fans as we all get to work."

Aside from Europe, Rodgers' priority will be to see Celtic to a sixth successive Scottish title and keep Rangers at bay as the club dreams of achieving a record 10 championships on the bounce.

There was no mention of Rangers in the exclamatory statements - but, given their timing, there was no need. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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