One of the moments to create a stir from Celtic’s League Cup triumph on Sunday took place miles away from Hampden. It came when Brendan Rodgers addressed supporters outside Celtic Park following the 3-0 victory over Aberdeen.
The Irishman, before and after his first silverware success, had been at pains to stress that winning trophies had no impact on him personally. Yet, in footage captured as he thanked fans, his voice cracked with emotion and he was forced to pause in order to collect himself.
Rodgers presents himself as being ruled by the head, but here he was being controlled by the heart. The notion that he would close his mind to the latter was simply a misunderstanding of how he perceives the pursuit of footballing honours, he maintained yesterday,
“I had a flashback of something that was important to me,” he said of the lump in his throat on Sunday night. “I was wishing there were people there in my life who aren’t here any more so you get a wee sudden flash of something. It was a great day all day round. A great performance all round and we won.
“It is an instinctive thing. I want to repeat here: I was asked the question about trophies because I have been hammered for it, but you see my teams – I win and I want to win. The question was asked of me, what does it mean personally, and of course I want to win.
“That is why I work, why I am a manager and what I am judged on, but my mother and father died extraordinary people, good people. They never had a trophy. They never got a trophy in their life. There are many people in the world [who] do great things but never get a trophy. That was my point, that it wouldn’t change me.
“When I am asked about how I feel about [it is framed as] if I am worried what it says about me on Wikipedia. What I want to say is that I am a good guy, I help people develop and improve and do charity work – that is what is more important to me. But do I want to win? Of course I do. But my ambition is for the club and the club’s success.
“That is important to recognise the difference. It doesn’t mean I am not emotional about winning. I want to win. You see my team, they are winning and it is not by chance. We work hard at it and we have a focus as a team and we prepare the team to win. There are more things important to me in life than a trophy, that is my point.”
That is reflected in how Rodgers celebrated the success. “I was home at 8:30 with a cup of tea and a bit of toast and I watched the game again,” he said. “I was reading some of the reports and hearing that I would have been going long into the night but no, I was at home at 8:30, absolutely shattered.
“I am not a big drinker. I was teetotal until my early 20s, my mother and father never drank, not that that is to say there is anything wrong with celebrating with a drink. We do it in different ways. I said to the players to make sure they went away and had a couple of days and really enjoy it. Some decided to go for a meal, some decided to go and have a real good time. That is absolutely fine. For me, I just want to be around people that I am close with and family and analyse the game.”
Rodgers did that by watching the final again on both Monday and Tuesday, with his ceaseless quest for improvement a must. “The staff set the standard. We come in early, we go home late, we constantly analyse what we can do better. I’ve always looked at how to improve players and the team. This is my profession. I’m not rushing out of here to get nine holes in on the golf course. This is our life and you need to devote yourself to it.”
The one-sided final, and the fact that Celtic have now gone 778 domestic minutes without conceding a goal in an unbeaten 16-game run including 15 wins, has many believing that Rodgers can lead his team to a treble without a defeat on the home front.
“It’s not in my thinking, to be honest,” said the Celtic manager, who takes his team to Motherwell for tomorrow’s lunchtime fixture. However, it is in the thinking of some of his squad, who have mused on the possibility they can be essentially untouchable. That could smack of arrogance.
“You should always retain humility in how you work,” Rodgers said. “The trick is in the question that’s asked. They’re obviously on the back end of doing well and confident. But I’ll always keep a lid on that for them. There is always something just around the corner that you’ve got to be ready for. But look, it’s nice. I want my team to play with a football arrogance. Off the field it’s all about humility, but I have that.
“At some point it [losing a game] will happen. Listen, if you could tell me that every player would stay fit, that we wouldn’t have any injuries, that the pitches would remain first class then.... but there are so many variables. We could get a man sent off or something else could happen. If everything stayed the same then we may have a chance. But at some point we’ll lose.”