It’s not secret that Brendan Rodgers uses buzzwords and proverbs to get his message across, but there is one in particular the Celtic boss currently prefers to get the best out of the Parkhead first-team: “relentless”.
It’s certainly an accurate description for how the Scottish champions’ have played so far, at least domestically, under the tutelage of the Northern Irishman. Through 12 league games they’ve dropped only two points, have conceded zero goals in their last eight domestic fixtures, and picked up the first trophy of the campaign with Sunday’s 3-0 win against Aberdeen in the Betfred Cup final.
And “relentless” is fairly apt for the manner in which Celtic despatched Aberdeen on Sunday. Without influential stars Kieran Tierney and Scott Sinclair down the left-hand side, there was some hope, albeit slim, that Aberdeen could cause an upset on the Hampden Park turf. Instead, Cetic were ahead in 16 minutes, two-up in 37 and out of sight before substitute Callum McGregor had taken the field with 13 minutes remaining.
It may not have been the most strenuous of exercises the 23-year-old has taken part in, but the Celtic youth product was just happy to get a run out on such a momentous day for the club.
“We were brilliant on Sunday and it’s a great privilege to be part of a team that made history by winning the 100th trophy,” said McGregor. “We did it from start to finish, I felt we were excellent. To go and dominate the match and score three goals made it a great day.
“The preparation and work that we put in every day is showing on the pitch. The manager has so much experience from his time in England and he’s transferred that over to the players. We stay calm in the big moments of games and that has been important. Every day in training, he tells us to be relentless. It’s a word he uses all the time when he speaks to us.
“We won the league last season but there were a few disappointments in big games, especially the Scottish Cup semi-final. That has probably spurred us on to do better this season. We want to be at Hampden, standing with medals around our necks, lifting the cup in front of the fans.”
Having started in each of Celtic’s last two games prior to Sunday’s match with Aberdeen, McGregor can perhaps feel hard done by not to have been given the nod by Rodgers for the final. Although, while the player would have obviously preferred to start, the feel-good factor around the club means there’s no room for resentment or animosity as everyone feels they are a part of something special, whether in or out of the starting XI
“Since day one, everybody has felt part of things and everyone has been first class in terms of how we have worked. We have all come together and focused on what we want to do,” added McGregor. “Even if you haven’t played for a few weeks, there isn’t a feeling that you are left out. You know the manager will always give you a chance to go back in and play your share of games. It leads to everyone feeling part of things and fighting to get big results in big games.”