Brendan Rodgers believes there are no limits to the levels of dominance Celtic can continue to exert in Scottish football for the rest of this season.
As he reflected on Sunday’s 4-0 victory over Hearts, which saw his team break a 50-year-old record for an unbeaten start to a domestic season set by Jock Stein’s Lisbon Lions, the Celtic manager turned his attention to the possibility of further landmarks over the coming months.
The next record which could be threatened is the run of 25 consecutive league victories achieved by Celtic under Martin O’Neill in 2003-04. Rodgers’ team are currently on a run of 17 Premiership victories in a row ahead of Aberdeen’s visit to Celtic Park tomorrow night. The Scottish champions remain in firm contention for the club’s first domestic treble since 2001, while the prospect of completing the season undefeated domestically is also a target.
“Everything’s possible,” said Rodgers. “The next one is to get a win on Wednesday. That is all I’m thinking about, getting a victory then.
“When you are climbing to the top of a mountain, you don’t look at the top straight away. You know where you want to get to but there are periods of rest before you set your targets again. That’s what I’ve always done – set little mini goals and celebrate those achievements along the way. It’s about ticking boxes as we go along.
“It’s a long journey, a season, but we have been able to do that. Sunday was a great day. If you think of the 129-year history of Celtic and of how long that record stood for, and think of all the great teams and brilliant players who have been here, I think the players here deserve the credit they get.
“It is a remarkable show of professionalism, quality, desire and spirit – all the key attributes needed to make up a team. So it is a great achievement. They have opened a new page in the history of Celtic and now we want to continue writing a really positive story on that. Hopefully we can stay focused and keep pushing on.
“We have to make it as difficult as we possibly can. We have to create the modern-day record. We’ve just got to keep focused and apply ourselves no differently than we have been. Now we are out there on our own, in terms of this record, so we have to set the bar as high as we possibly can.”
Lisbon Lion John Clark, still a member of the backroom staff at Celtic, was on hand to offer Rodgers his congratulations on the new record yesterday, while the former Liverpool boss also received several other messages from colleagues throughout the game.
“Yeah, a few managers have rung in or sent messages,” he said. “I heard from Neil Lennon, among others. People in the game, both north and south of the Border, know how difficult it is.
“It doesn’t matter what level, it’s all relative. It’s a really difficult thing to do when you think of the number of games we’ve had, tough games we have had.
“To win 21 league games out of 22 so far this season – and the 2-2 draw at Inverness earlier in the season still irks me after playing so well in the second half up there – is such a tough ask of any team. It shows how committed the players have been to what we are trying to do here.
“Like I say we should be on 22 straight wins in the league but we’re not, so we just have to look to the next game. But everything is possible and for this group, we stay focused.
“However it comes, it’s not easy. I must note that the Lisbon Lions are unique. What they achieved and what they did in that period of time was totally unique. So for us to be mentioned even in the same breath as that and to receive congratulations from the likes of John Clark and Bobby Lennox is a really humbling experience. For this team here at the moment, it’s about creating our own memories now.”
Asked specifically about the possibility of going through the whole league season unbeaten – something only previously achieved in Scottish football by Celtic themselves in 1897-98 and Rangers the following season – Rodgers simply remained mindful of the immediate task in hand.
“I really don’t think about it,” he said. “Of course, you guys have to, that’s your job. You look at the history, look forward and try to forecast.
“But as a manager you can’t forecast, you really can’t because that’s when I think you’re in trouble. You just have to focus on the next game, that’s what my experience has given me.
“The minute you think you can get points there, we can win there, we can draw there, no. That’s when you slip up. You put everything into the next game and that’s the approach and it always will be the approach. The consequence of that can be wins and you just have to win as many games as you can.”