Exactly one year ago today, Brendan Rodgers clinked champagne glasses with his fiance Charlotte in the upmarket Majorcan resort of Port Adriano and celebrated the confirmation of his appointment as Celtic manager.
After 12 months which he admits he simply could not have scripted any better, the corks will be popping again tomorrow when Celtic are presented with the Scottish Premiership trophy after their final league game of the campaign against Hearts.
Rodgers hopes the party will also be marking the continuation of an unbeaten domestic season which will conclude with the Scottish Cup final against Aberdeen the following weekend. Regardless of whether that unprecedented feat of domestic invincibility in all competitions is achieved, the Northern Irishman is a fully merited recipient of the Scottish Football Writers’ Association Manager of the Year award.
“The year has gone quickly,” reflected Rodgers. “It has been pretty surreal, really, when I think of what has happened. It has been full of brilliant football and life experiences. I couldn’t have wished it to have gone any better.
“I remember the day a year ago. I’d done the agreement myself with my lawyer, because I don’t have an agent, and the paperwork was getting sent back and forward from the UK to Majorca where I was. It all came through, it got signed. I was there with Charlotte, overlooking Port Adriano, and we celebrated with some champagne. Charlotte hasn’t ever been into football so she hadn’t really heard of Celtic. But she loves it here, she absolutely loves it. The schools and everything have been great so she’s settled in very well.
“What has been really remarkable has been the enjoyment that I have felt in working here with the squad and with the club as a whole. I just think there is so much growth left in it. I don’t have a fixed mindset which says, ‘right, this is it.’ I look through the club and I see so much growth here.”
One of the keys to happiness for Rodgers has been the relationship he has forged with Celtic’s major shareholder Dermot Desmond, a prime mover in his appointment as Ronny Deila’s successor. Desmond has not been immune to criticism from a section of the Celtic support who have occasionally questioned his distance from and commitment to the club. Rodgers is keen to slay that as a myth.
“Dermot wakes up in the morning and thinks of Celtic,” said Rodgers. “He looks at everything Celtic, he goes to bed at night, everything Celtic. He will be in contact with me on a fairly regular basis. It might only be three or four lines in a text offering encouragement and support, it might be a meeting in London, it might be a phone call, but it is constant. It is always there. I couldn’t ask for any more. There is a real, real trust to it.
“I can’t speak highly enough of him and Peter [Lawwell] and if there is any reassurance that the supporters ever needed from one of their own, then I will tell them. These are people and guys who have an incredible commitment to this club. There is a real feel, a real focus on the club and they are really passionate about the club moving forward.”
It is, of course, a landmark season for Celtic with the 50th anniversary celebrations of their 1967 European Cup final triumph. Rodgers feels his team have paid suitable homage to the Lisbon Lions with their performances on the pitch.
“Whether we go unbeaten or not it has been a real fitting season from the ’16-’17 team this season,” he said. “They have played with a lot of the values that the ’66-’67 team created back then – the spirit, the togetherness, the creativity with the football, the never-say-die attitude and the ability to keep going. The one thing we can all learn from that era is the humility. If we could do it and go through the season unbeaten then it would be a fitting tribute to them but hopefully the football we have played and our behaviours have also been fitting.”