Dembele could yet play in cup showdown says Brendan Rodgers

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers with the Ladbrokes Premiership Manager of the Month award.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers with the Ladbrokes Premiership Manager of the Month award.
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Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has said that Moussa Dembele may yet play a part in the Scottish Cup final.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has said that Moussa Dembele may yet play a part in the Scottish Cup final.

“He’s moving well,” said Rodgers as he accepted the April Premiership Manager of the Month award.

The striker, who has scored 32 goals in all competitions this term, now seems to have a good chance of recovering from his hamstring injury.

Rodgers added: “There’s still a bit of time to go. We’ll leave that as late as we can and see how he is.”

But he was full of praise for the 20-year-old, despite the fact he has been pipped to all the young player of the year plaudits thus far by his team-mate Kieran Tierney.

“He’s a wonderful talent irrespective of what the awards are. The awards for all of us are greater collectively. Moussa has had a brilliant season even if he doesn’t kick another ball. To get 30-plus goals as a 19/20 year old in your first season at a big club, he’s done incredibly well. He might not be recognised for any of these individual awards but he’s certainly recognised by the management and the supporters and his team-mates.”

In a week when Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s Lewis Horner and Annan Athletic chairman Henry McLelland have been charged with betting on football, the Celtic manager conceded there is a problem but said that blaming bookies’ sponsorship deals was too simplistic.

Rodgers said: “I don’t think you can solely blame the sponsorship of bookmakers in football because for years they weren’t involved but players were still betting

“I’m not a gambler but I know some of the consequences for people who have gambled, and what it’s like. People will gamble, silly little gambles for five pounds but for me the issue is if anything questions the integrity of the game. It’s always been there, people have always done it and I’m sure people will always do it.

“I’ve had to deal with it, I’ve had guys break down in front of me and heard some horrendous stories. I would say to them ‘what was the biggest high you got’ and they would say the biggest high, and the best ‘win’ they got was when their wife caught them! The relief! Because then all of a sudden they said they could sleep at night. You’d hate to be in that position, you’d hate it, but everyone’s circumstances are different.

“I remember having a young player in one of my teams who had a real bad issue with it, and the anger he brought into training would spark him off. I eventually had to send him on loan because he was chasing it, and that meant every day he was an angry man and his focus was elsewhere.”

“I’ve always said to players ‘whatever you are professionally never feel it’s a burden or a weakness to come to me, or think I will judge you, whether it is gambling or whatever.”