Saturday 20 January 2018

Rodgers reveals Premier League approaches

Rodgers: New Celtic boss. Photo: Steve Welsh/Getty Images
Rodgers: New Celtic boss. Photo: Steve Welsh/Getty Images

Roddy Forsyth

It was difficult to know who was meant to be more impressed: Brendan Rodgers as he was chauffeured along the Celtic Way past the statue of Billy McNeill holding aloft the European Cup, or the hundreds of fans who had assembled in front of Parkhead to catch a first glimpse of the new manager.

The impact appeared to be mutual. While Rodgers went off to be introduced to the media, a stream of fans filed into the stadium to await his reappearance on the pitch, by which point the crowd was bigger than some Scottish Premiership teams attract on match days.

Inside, meanwhile, Rodgers revealed that he had turned down an offer to manage English Premier League clubs after he was sacked by Liverpool in October.

"Swansea contacted me in January when Garry Monk left but I was always clear I wanted a break-out," said the 43-year-old. "When I left Liverpool, I could have been in a Premier League job the next day.

"On the Monday, I got a call from a club but I wanted to have time out from the intensity of managing big clubs and the pressures that come with it.

"With Swansea, it was a case of me telling Huw Jenkins in January that I wouldn't be able to go back to work, but in the summer I would be. We had a few conversations and a lot of it was linked to the new ownership. That new ownership isn't ready to go through yet.

"I could have waited and maybe got another job in the Premier League, but I hope to be managing for another 20-odd years. The chance to manage Celtic might not come again, which is why I felt I wanted to talk and then be here today."

However, Rodgers made it clear that he had not made the first move in respect of Celtic.

"That's not how it works, certainly not for me. I do my own deals. There were a few opportunities, but Peter Lawwell (Celtic CEO) rang me when Ronny (Deila) said he was going to leave. I'm a Celtic supporter, I love the club, so out of respect I thought I would go and speak to both Peter and Dermot Desmond (major shareholder)," he said.

"I met Dermot in London, along with Peter, and I could see the hunger and the passion in his eyes. He wasn't just talking through any old spiel to get me here. He has a genuine passion for the club and I came away really impressed by him."

Rodgers becomes the third Northern Irishman to manage the club in recent times and revealed that he would consult Neil Lennon, who left two years ago, saying: "I will speak to Neil because he is a good guy who understands it."

Rodgers also disclosed a sentimental personal attachment to the club, forged by the late Tommy Burns, who was manager from 1994-97 and whom he met when Burns was subsequently in charge at Reading.

"As a young coach, Tommy was a huge influence," he said.

"The last time I saw him, bless him, I was working with the Chelsea reserves and talking to Leicester City about maybe getting my first job in management. Tommy and I talked about how one day he could come back to Celtic as a director of football and I could come as a manager. That's how ironic this is - a poignant day."

Sentiment will soon give way to the reality of Celtic's craving to return to the Champions League group stage - the first qualifier is on July 12/13 - and the need to overhaul a bloated squad.

For a little while, though, on a beatific summer's evening, Rodgers appeared before his first congregation of the Hoops faithful, whose devout hope is that he is the answer to many a prayer uttered over the last few months. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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