Brendan Rodgers has hailed Dermot Desmond’s “hunger and passion” as the key factors in his decision to become Celtic’s 18th manager.
The 43-year-old former Liverpool boss received a rapturous welcome from around 10,000 supporters as he was formally unveiled as Ronny Deila’s successor at the Scottish champions last night.
Rodgers’ appointment has captured the imagination and enthusiastic approval of the Celtic fans, who were vocal in their criticism of the club’s board, including major shareholder Desmond, towards the end of the season just ended.
The Irish billionaire financier is often perceived as a largely disinterested, absentee landlord by many supporters.
But, having received the initial call from chief executive Peter Lawwell to register Celtic’s interest in him, Rodgers revealed it was his conversations with Desmond which sealed the deal.
“That was a big swaying factor,” said Rodgers. “I met Dermot in London along with Peter and I could see the hunger and the passion in his eyes. He wasn’t just talking through any old spiel to get me here. He has a real genuine passion and love for the club.
“I was aware of Dermot Desmond, the name and the association with his past. But I came away really impressed by him.
“Then, following that, he made a couple of really important calls to me. We had a real long conversation one night. We were about half an hour on the phone. Dermot made it pretty clear that I was the one they wanted here.”
Out of work since being sacked by Liverpool in October, Rodgers had always intended to wait until this summer before returning to management.
He admits he initially agreed to speak to Celtic out of basic courtesy but, despite being advised by some colleagues not to move into Scottish football, was soon convinced it was a move that he could not turn down.
“I don’t have an agent, I do my own deals,” added Rodgers. “I was just waiting to see what the possibilities were.
“There were a few opportunities, but Peter rang me when Ronny said he was going to leave. I’m a Celtic supporter, I love the club so, out of respect, I thought I would go and speak to both Peter and Dermot.
“I have to say they were very impressive. They were very realistic in terms of where the club is at. They felt the need to hopefully push it on.
“When you weigh it all up and have that sense the club really want you, it means a lot to you. It’s not then so much about money or anything like that. It was purely that Celtic wanted me here as manager.
“After weighing it all up and speaking to family we felt it was going to be a good experience for us.
“Don’t get me wrong, I have had a number of guys who have said ‘Don’t go – why would you go?’ but this is Celtic and it’s different. It is a challenge, of course. It is a different market, a different budget but this can be a wonderful opportunity to come and help the players. If I can help the game in Scotland then great, but this is about helping Celtic.”
Rodgers is adamant he does not regard Celtic as simply a staging post ahead of a return to the English Premier League.
“Unfortunately, most times now it is not the manager who decides how long you are at a club,” he added. “It’s normally the club. But when you come into any club, you come in for the longer term.
“I look at Martin O’Neill, he was here for five years. Neil Lennon was here for four seasons. So you want to bring success to the club and however long that takes, you want that opportunity.
“Time is the big thing you want as a manager, but ultimately you don’t get that. You’ve got to win games and you’ve got to perform.
“But at this moment in time, I’ve got no thoughts of Celtic being a stepping stone and moving back into the Premier League.
“I don’t want to work in the Premier League for 20 years, hence the reason I came up here.
“This is a wonderful country. It has some top- class coaches and managers. You are working in a totally different market at a totally different level.
“For me, it is a challenge. However long the challenge is, I will be here.
“You don’t know what the future holds. For me, to come here and manage and be successful – it’s certainly not going to be for a year, that’s for sure.
“When I left Liverpool, I could have been in a Premier League job the next day. On the Monday, I got a call from a club. But I wanted to have time out from the intensity of managing big clubs and the pressures that come with it.
“Swansea contacted me in January when Garry Monk left. But I was always clear I wanted to break out. It was always clear that I wanted to go back in the summer.
“I could have waited and maybe got another job in the Premier League, but I hope to be managing for another 20-odd years.
“The chance to manage Celtic might not come again, which is why I felt I wantedto talk and then be here today.”
Rodgers, meanwhile, dismissed speculation linking him with a move to bring former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who is out of contract at LA Galaxy later this year, to Celtic.
“I’ve never even considered anything like that,” said Rodgers. “Stevie is a very good player, but I’ve never thought about that.
“He’s an incredible man and was an incredible captain for me at Liverpool and, if he decides to leave in the summer or when he finishes in LA, he will have a number of options. But it’s not even been a consideration at this moment.”
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