Brendan Rodgers: '˜It's great that Neil McCann has left the comfort of the Sky studio'

The last time Brendan Rodgers encountered Neil McCann, it was in a television studio at Tynecastle after Celtic had clinched the Premiership title in April.

Brendan Rodgers is looking forward to pitting his wits against Neil McCann after the Dundee manager swapped his TV job for the Dens dugout. Picture:Alan Harvey/SNS
Brendan Rodgers is looking forward to pitting his wits against Neil McCann after the Dundee manager swapped his TV job for the Dens dugout. Picture:Alan Harvey/SNS

Tomorrow night, the Celtic
manager will face the erstwhile Sky Sports analyst across the rival technical 
areas at Dens Park.

Rodgers has praised McCann’s decision to swap the world of punditry for the unforgiving environment of frontline management and believes the former Hearts, Rangers and Scotland winger is equipped to succeed as 
Dundee boss.

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“I am glad Neil has come out of that comfortable chair and put himself into a situation where the light shines right on you,” smiled Rodgers as he looked ahead to the Betfred Cup quarter-final assignment against McCann’s side.

“I am delighted for him. I think he has done really well. It is not easy. He speaks very well about the game when I listen to him – most of the time! He has come out of that, he has given it a go at Dundee at the end of last season, hasn’t been put off by it and has come back for another go.

“It was difficult for him. He went into a club he knows well at the end of the season. I have an admiration for him to come out of where he was, roll his sleeves up and get on to the training field. He has come in this season and it hasn’t been an easy start for him.

“He always played the game with a great level of technique and speed as a player. He was a very good player, very fast, very dynamic – he always seemed to score against Celtic as well, I always remember that. He played with charisma. I am sure that is how he is 
trying to get his teams to play. He will give them that freedom to play football. I hope he can do very well. It will be a tough game for us.

“Probably a lot of the boys who are TV pundits would like to do it, to become managers. Some of them have done and it hasn’t quite worked out.

“It is hard to have that feel for what it’s like unless you have been stood in the shoes, with the spotlight on you. There is not a job like it.

“It’s not like being a first-team coach or an assistant manager. Once the curtain goes 
back and the light is on you as 
a manager it is a different sport.

“You can talk about it, you can analyse it, but until you are under that pressure you will never, ever know what decisions you will make. That is why it is great that Neil has come out of the studio and is actually feeling the pressure of having to win.

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“I am sure he will want to win in a certain way and play a certain style of football. But you have to be able to get that across to players and get that information out. To do that consistently is a lot more difficult. But I have got a big admiration for him and guys like him who want to have a go at doing it.”

Rodgers has bigger fish to fry over the next week, with the Betfred Cup tie followed by Saturday’s Old Firm game at Ibrox on Saturday and the Champions League match away to Anderlecht next Wednesday.

But, while he will rotate his squad again tomorrow night, his desire to retain Celtic’s grip on the League Cup trophy is not in question.

“It’s about prioritising,” he said. “You want to win everything. I’m comfortable that whatever changes I make, it will be a strong team we put out.

“I felt winning the League Cup last season was very important for us because of how we were working and how we started. It was a matter of having something to show for it.

“For me, it will always be the most important trophy in my time here because it was the first one and also because it was the one which gave the players the belief in how we were working on a daily basis – how they were being coached. So I see it as a very important trophy.”