Brendan Rodgers explains his lack of Celtic apology for Leicester move and points to Kieran Tierney parallel

There is a little known fact that relates to Brendan Rodgers’ first stint at Celtic.

The Irishman presided over 169 games between July 2016 and February 2019. As he redrew the parameters in Scottish football by landing a treble without suffering a domestic loss, before backing that up with another domestic clean sweep - a feat never previously accomplished - and then set the club on course for, incredibly, a third such monopoly of the Scottish trophy hauls. The 169 games is significant in this context as Rodgers became a pariah for embracing the opportunity to operate once more in the most illustrious league set-up on the planet in accepting the offer waved at him from Leicester City four-and-a-bit years ago. For his tenure is one game fewer than the 170 games Kieran Tierney played for his boyhood club. Prior to his £25m move to Arsenal in the summer of 2019. Yet, while subsequent to that transfer the full-back could still get a piece at any Celtic supporter’s door, until the machinations that have brought Rodgers back to the Glasgow club for a second tour of duty as successor to Ange Postecoglou cranked up, the Irishman would have only had pieces thrown at him from any such abodes.

In fairness to the majority of the Celtic fraternity, their over-emotional response to Rodgers’ departure has now given way to a better understanding of how longevity at even Scotland’s pre-eminent club is chewed up by the realities of the footballing food chain. Not entirely, though, with some blog sites stating Rodgers would be forgiven for his, supposed, betrayal were he to offer an apology for his Leicester flit as he began his second spell. That simply wasn’t on the agenda as he reconnected with the Scottish media in the first such duties of his second spell, though. And only respect is due to him for that. A man supposedly willing to say what suits for the sake of self-image didn’t take the easy way out. Instead, he set out straight his thoughts on the opprobrium heaped on him for becoming the only Celtic manager in history to leave of his own volition in the throes of a campaign. Articulating a sensitivity in appreciating how his career choice could affect others he remains unrepentant over this fact amounting to a reason to say sorry.

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“You make a decision in your life, we all make decisions,” he said. “I’ve never regretted a decision I’ve made, what I regret is the hurt. I knew people hurt at that time, it was a sad moment. I had family, close friends and it absolutely knocked them. What that then does to other supporters, I totally understand that. But those are the decisions you make as a professional. I’m pretty sure Virgil van Dijk didn’t apologise when he left, or [Victor] Wanyama, or Henrik [Larsson] or Kieran Tierney. That doesn’t mean we love the club less, it’s a professional judgement you make. I can accept what has come my way with that, but what I didn’t accept was personal stuff with the family.”

Brendan Rodgers is unveiled as the new Celtic manager for the second time. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)Brendan Rodgers is unveiled as the new Celtic manager for the second time. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Brendan Rodgers is unveiled as the new Celtic manager for the second time. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

It was put to him that he is the only one of those among that grouping who has come back. A decision that demonstrates gumption - he cannot improve upon his trophy returns this time around, only fail to live up to previous domestic perfection - but surely could have only prompted a little nervousness. “Not really, I was more excited. I think I’d given it long enough to think,” he said. “Four years…it doesn’t feel like yesterday I’ve been away from here. I wouldn’t say I was nervous. I know there are enough supporters who respect the work I did but I wanted to come back to finish the work I’d started here.”

In the intervening period there has been a realisation he did not leave Celtic in the lurch in 2019. The subsequent five trophies dished out in Scottish football were all won by his successor Neil Lennon. A figure the club’s support wanted marched from the building as soon as matters started going awry in the pandemic, 10-straight-title chasing, season of 2020-21. Rodgers' departure perhaps now is being reflected through a different prism, owing to Ange Postecoglou exiting for Tottenham Hotspur last month subsequent to only two - scintillating - seasons at the Celtic helm.

“Someone said about leaving in the lurch and I said, it’s some lurch…” said the new/old Celtic manager. “We were eight points ahead in the league with only 11 games remaining - it was hardly 'halfway' as has been stated - and had won the League Cup [and reached the Scottish Cup quarter-finals]. That’s the emotion of it, it was a sad time because it happened quickly and people were hurt. I get that. I never get too emotional with words but of course when it’s this club and some of the supporters, naturally it hurts, but I’m a professional and in our job, unfortunately you can love a club and be with a club… if you look at Ange and what he did here for a couple of years, a fantastic job.

“He will have loved his time here and won’t find a better environment, a better set of supporters to be working with. But as a coach, there’s a challenge and he’s taking on a challenge at Tottenham. When I went to Leicester, the challenge was taking a mid-table team into the top six. Celtic still had a good time after I left. When I went to Leicester we had three of the four best finishes in the history of the club, we won the FA Cup, the Community Shield. For both of us, it actually worked out well. But, for some, there’s emotion there and I can only put that down to the affinity and the closeness we have. I’m here to try and help those people again and bring the dreams back.”



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