The Celtic boss must not be punished for being the obvious Manager of the Year candidate, writes Stephen Mcilkenny
Rangers fans were reminded of the gap between them and their fierce rivals in the 5-1 destruction at Ibrox on Saturday. While the season is undoubtedly winding down, it was a yet another moment for Celtic fans to savour in what has been a glorious season for the men in hoops.
Celtic have been crowned champions, have secured the League Cup and have booked their place in the Scottish Cup final. Furthermore, they’re closing in on an undefeated domestic season.
But, some things are still up for grabs.
Speculation has begun about who will be crowned Scottish Manager of the Year and Player of the Year. With Celtic dominating on a domestic front under Brendan Rodgers, the Celtic manager is odds-on to take home the award in his first season in charge at Celtic Park.
Although some would like to argue otherwise.
Indeed, there has been a slightly different tone in the end of season speculation as to who will be named as Manager of the Year.
In the last few weeks, there has been an unprecedented number of journalists calling for managers such as Alan Archibald or even Jim Duffy to be awarded Manager of the Year. Phone-ins have been swamped with calls from fans (and pundits alike) to point out the amazing job done by Archibald, with some calling for the Partick Thistle manager to be given the award.
While no one can deny the phenomenal job undertaken by Archibald at Partick Thistle, I can’t help but feel that amongst some in the media, there’s a growing trend to snub the manager that in my mind deserves it the most.
Before I go any further I must stress, I do not want to belittle the achievement of Archibald and his side. The fact that he has led a team on a shoestring budget to their first-ever Premiership top-six finish.is remarkable. However, how can we really look past Brendan Rodgers for the award and how can the media suggest another candidate is as worthwhile as the Celtic boss?
Are we really having a discussion that a manager who has already won two trophies and went undefeated domestically so far this season should not be awarded Manager of the Year?
A common argument against awarding Brendan Rodgers the accolade is that he has done exactly what is expected at Celtic. Last year, Mark Warburton won Scottish Manager of the Year after he did exactly what was expected of him and got Rangers promoted. Why did it not make a difference then? For Celtic, exactly what is expected is winning the league. With weeks to go, Celtic remain undefeated and could secure the treble. If anything, Brendan Rodgers has overachieved.
A simple way to back this point up is that this isn’t really Brendan Rodgers’ team. If you take a look at the additions from Brendan Rodgers the vast majority haven’t even featured in every game. Take away Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair and you are left with a number of fringe players such as, Dorus de Vries, Cristian Gamboa, Kolo Toure and the January addition of Kouassi Eboue. Surely it is a case that Rodgers has effectively improved the side that he inherited from Ronny Deila rather than ‘bought’ success and glory as some are suggesting?
Stuart Armstrong looks like a new player, Scott Brown is a man reborn and James Forrest is taking on players with the same confidence he had when he first broke into the Celtic team. Then we have the recent exploits of Callum McGregor… Need I go on?
No one in England is suggesting that Ronald Koeman or Eddie Howe should be Manager of the Year. Instead it is accepted that the two that are most likely to win are the two most deserving, Antonio Conte and Mauricio Pochettino
Why is it that rather than praising the manager who has arguably achieved the most this season, some involved in the Scottish game are trying to talk fans out of his selection. Are we in the media ‘too cool’ to back the favourite and most-deserving of the award and instead opt for the ‘football hipsters’ choice instead? That’s not how this works.
It’s not as if Celtic or Rangers managers win the award every year. The last Celtic manager to be named Manager of the Year was in 2008/09 and I fully expect that to change this year, and rightfully so.
We shouldn’t punish Rodgers by desperately suggesting other managers. Celtic can only beat what is front of them and they have done so handsomely this year. As such a Celtic manager and player should be taking home the top accolade in Scottish football.