There’s no place like Celtic for boss Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers in relaxed mood during yesterdays press conference ahead of Celtics vital Champions League clash against Borussia Monchengladbach tonight. Picture: SNS

Brendan Rodgers in relaxed mood during yesterdays press conference ahead of Celtics vital Champions League clash against Borussia Monchengladbach tonight. Picture: SNS

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It illustrates just how easily and gladly Brendan Rodgers has assimilated to life as Celtic manager that he felt no pang of regret while watching Liverpool v Manchester United on television on Monday night.

Eye-wateringly poor though the 90 minutes were, the fixture remains the most high profile and, probably, over-hyped game in the English Premier League – which is saying something.

But Rodgers wasn’t wishing he was back at Anfield, or anywhere else in England’s top flight. And why should he? He has enough on his plate at Celtic, where satisfaction, while not guaranteed, has, to date, been in abundant supply. “I am never jealous,” he smiled.

Neither of the clubs playing out an insipid 0-0 draw on Monday night are in Europe’s premier club competition, for a start. In fact Liverpool are not in Europe at all this season. Celtic, by contrast, are deep into a roller-coaster Champions League campaign.

Rodgers arrived at yesterday’s pre-match press conference fresh from a training field where he’d enjoyed what he reckoned was the most productive session of his time at the club. He was still wearing his tracksuit along with the rosy glow of someone safe in the knowledge he’s in the right place.

He has a full complement of 28 outfield players and four goalkeepers from which to select his team to face Borussia Monchengladbach tonight, in another eagerly-awaited Champions League Group C fixture.

The game has long since been a sell-out. Over 60,000 will cram into Celtic Park before another full house watches Sunday’s Betfred League Cup semi-final against Rangers at Hampden. Times are good.

“The spirit is great, they (the players) really galvanise each other and today was probably the best I have seen in terms of the type of session we were doing,” said Rodgers.

“That is great for me because it’s a consequence of coaching and development. It’s about improving players, and they will get better as the season goes on.”

These players know they need to maintain a consistent level of performance away from the high-octane matches they are becoming so accustomed to. “Unless you can do it for me in training, you can never do it in a game,” reasoned Rodgers.

He has been “overwhelmed” by the standard of player at Celtic. “I have to say that I am in a real, real enjoyable period of my coaching life in terms of working with these guys,” he said. “You never know [what to expect]. You come up here from the Premier League where you were working with world-class players, and at Swansea with very good players, playing in the most competitive league in the world.”

He admits to being surprised. Not by the players’ talent, but by their eagerness to work. Rodgers didn’t say it but there aren’t too many Mario Balotelli-types at Celtic.

“In the modern footballer there is a lot of ego,” said Rodgers. “But this group have no ego. This group come in every day and we have set a standard from the first day in terms of training and what we expect on and off the field, and these guys are looking to deliver it.”

As shown against Manchester City, where skill blended so well with an almost delirious industry in the 3-3 draw, Celtic can, with the right application, be a match for anyone.

Rodgers proudly noted other English clubs have adopted Celtic’s tactics against Manchester City, who lost their next match 2-0 to Tottenham Hotspur and on Saturday drew 1-1 with Everton.

“We are a better side now after that [City] game, which is natural, when you make 
probably Europe stand up,” he said.

“I think you see now the consequences of the players’ performance and what it’s done for teams in England. It’s given them an idea how to work against an incredible side like Manchester City.”

Rodgers feels completely satisfied, both professionally and personally. Such is the all-encompassing nature of being Celtic manager, he hasn’t had time to notice the ‘goldfish-bowl’ effect of Glasgow so many high-profile figures have found reason to bemoan in the past.

“Socially, the moments I do get out, it has been brilliant,” said Rodgers. “I was saying to Charlotte (his partner) the other day, the number of restaurants you have up here is incredible – I never knew the choice. It is incredible. You could eat out somewhere different every night for a whole year. And maybe some of you do!”

“Listen, every individual is different,” he added. “I tend to focus on my professional life, family and that’s it. When I can take a break from it I will do. I went away in the last international break, I didn’t in the one before that. Sometimes you need to press the re-set button again and think over things in a different setting.”

Rodgers is back dining at the top table once more tonight. Little wonder he feels so comfortable with his choices.

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