In recent days Brendan Rodgers has been at pains to stress that his work at Celtic is not all about trophies. Having said that, the structure he is building will be impacted upon undoubtedly by the outcome of today’s League Cup final.
Right now, Rodgers is exhibiting an authority and constructing teams to dominate Scottish opponents, as really only Jock Stein and Martin O’Neill have for Celtic in the post-war age. These two men are notably the club’s only managers to deliver trebles, and Rodgers will be desperate to join them, whatever he might say publicly.
Yet, the Irishman seeks to go beyond that. It was once said of O’Neill that he always decided which flowers grew and which were cut down in his football garden. Rodgers is unabashed about having that level of control at Celtic. A control denied him at Liverpool as the result of club’s transfer committee that meant he did not have the final say on player purchases.
“That’s how it was set up at Liverpool when I went in there,” he said. “The manager has to be a big part of the process, but players, it always boils down to availability and affordability. It’s having the right people assessing the right type of profile for you.
“But I was asked by Dermot [Desmond, largest shareholder] and Peter [Lawwell, chief executive] when I came in here to be the architect of the club. And that was very appealing. But you can’t do it all on your own. You don’t know everything. You know 90 per cent but there’s another 10 per cent out there you need specialists to help you with. That allows me to manage that way, to delegate, to get other specialists’ opinions on things.
”[An overarching role is] is absolutely the only way to work. That’s why you are the manager: to manage the football operation. Where you can help the club outside of that with your experiences, then you do. There are lots of people here with really good skill sets. What I always try to do is create an environment for people to learn, improve and develop. Whether that’s on or off the field, I feel my obligation is to first and foremost help players – whether senior or youth – develop and then roll that out through the club.”
Rodgers appears uncomfortable with the notion of a legacy so early in a tenure that has delivered on results with a rip-roaring brand of football. Yet, he gives little indication he might not be around long enough to create a genuine one. He wants to be a treble winner, and take the club further in the Champions League than they have ever been before, which would mean the last eight. More than that, though, the question being posed is whether he wants to be the man that achieves ten-in-a-row at the club, and indeed, helps redraw Scottish football far beyond that.
“Hopefully we can be here for as long as we possible can and grow and develop,” Rodgers said. “The biggest thing for me is having a team of substance, one supporters enjoy watching. That’s the ultimate aim as a coach and a manager.
“I’m not worried so much about the periphery stuff, as long as the job I do is respected by the people at the club, the supporters and that the players enjoy their work. If we get a wee bit of luck along the way we can win trophies and make our mark. I’ve always set up teams to attack with aggression and hopefully the level of football can be good enough to bring in trophies.”