While the Celtic team deserved their share of the blame for some of the disappointments of last season, there was little doubt a change was needed at the manager’s position.
Brendan Rodgers has come in and immediately injected positivity into the Parkhead faithful. Though the team suffered an embarrassing defeat in his first match in charge, they rebounded to get past a tricky opponent in Astana and are nearly the unanimous pick among Scottish football experts to take the title.
Andrew Smith looks at four ways Rodgers will keep the good feeling going through his first season.
Rodgers’ predecessor Ronny Deila was first to admit he came to Celtic with a credibility issue that he struggled to shake off. As a man who have never managed outside of Norway - a country he said folk thought only produced successful sports people in skiing - and actually never even managed one of the top clubs within his homeland, his message was often judged with cynicism because of his status as the messenger. The feeling persisted within the Celtic dressing room.
There is none of that with Brendan Rodgers. In spending three years in charge of Liverpool - where only one slip in one game effectively prevented him being a title winner - he has already managed a bigger club than Celtic. His work with Swansea City that earned him a move to Anfield also demonstrates he could succeed in a much bigger set-up, and in more exacting circumstances. Rodgers brings into the Celtic post a reputation and force of personality that sets him up as a leader that players and punters will follow.
Champions League group stage football appears within his grasp
Celtic’s pairing with Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the Champions League playoffs provides them with precisely the sort of opponent that should not block their path to the group stages of the competition they are seeking to contest for the first time in three years. Unlike Malmo and Maribor in the past two years, the Israelis have never made the group stages of either the Champions League or Europa League.
The squad of players that Rodgers will, in the main, rely upon have shown sufficient fragility in continental competition for nothing to be taken for granted, but Be-er Sheva do not have the European pedigree to unduly concern the Irishman and his team. If Celtic do as the seeding determines against their playoff opponents then the lift the club will experience, and belief in Rodgers, ought to put the Parkhead side on an upper trajectory.
His arrival bring about a freshness
Rodgers’ willingness to mix it up tactically - switching between 3-5-2 and 4-1-4-1 and 4-4-2 thus far - has added a vibrancy to a team that became ponderous under Deila. The Norwegian acknowledged that a weariness set in among the players across his final months because of the pressure he was under and the difficulties in managing a bloated squad. Rodgers has begun to prune and reshape that and in the process both perked up his personnel and a far more populous and engaged support; his arrival helping push season-ticket sales beyond the 50,000 mark.
He is bound to spend notable money in the market...surely
In the coming days it is expected Celtic will part with £3m-plus to attract Aston Villa winger Scott Sinclair. It will be the first major investment of Rodgers’ three-month tenure, following the £500,000 spent to acquire Moussa Dembele and the recruitment of free agent Kolo Toure. It is unlikely that Rodgers would have agree to take the job, even with his personal affections for it, if there wasn’t in the region of £10m to improve the squad in the short-term. That figure is chicken feed compared to what is splashed around in England but it is astronomical compared to what anyone else in the Scottish game could fork out for players.