Brendan Rodgers has been hailed for restoring some gloss to Scottish football’s tarnished reputation in the eyes of English observers ahead of Celtic’s final Champions League fixture of the season against Manchester City tomorrow night.
Former City and Scotland striker Paul Dickov, a boyhood Celtic supporter, says the 3-3 draw between the teams at Parkhead in September “raised a few eyebrows” in the Premier League, where the opinion of Scottish football has rarely been so low.
“I was proud to see that Scottish resistance at Celtic Park,” said Dickov. “I feared for Celtic before the game, because City were on fire at that time and had won all of their games.
“So all credit to Brendan and his team, because they gave it a right good go. It was a great spectacle and great for Scottish football – I cheered all six goals!
“It certainly raised a few eyebrows down south. I’m doing quite a lot of work with City now on the ambassadorial side of things and I told a few of the people at the club that they would never have experienced anything like Celtic Park on a European night.
“They just laughed and shrugged it off, but then they played the game and they are still talking about it now. I didn’t know who I wanted to win, to be honest, because it’s my two teams.
“It is going to be difficult for Celtic at the Etihad on Tuesday night. Some of City’s recent results haven’t been so good, but they beat Barcelona at home and, with the squad and manager they have, anything’s possible for them. I’ve been lucky enough to see the majority of their games this season and I’ve never seen anything like some of the football they have played.”
Dickov had two spells at City, experiencing relegation to the third tier of English football in 1998 before helping them secure back-to-back promotions into the top flight. He remains a cult hero for a City support who have witnessed dramatic changes under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour in recent years.
“It feels like a completely different club from the one I was involved in,” Dickov said. “The kids are big City fans because I was there when they were being brought up. The fans now sing ‘where were you when we were s**t?’ at matches. I know where I was – I was playing for them! The owners have to take a lot of credit. It’s easy to talk about the money, to say they’ve bought the league. But the majority of the people who I first worked with behind the scenes back in 1996 are still there. They’ve made sure to keep hold of people like that and look after them.”