There is no doubt that Brendan Rodgers intends to create a legacy that goes beyond any silverware. Until he appeared post-match on Saturday, the afternoon had seemed to be one to slide from the memory rapidly; a mundane addition to a remarkable winning sequence.
Rodgers’ scathing assessment of his own club’s pitch – he made plain he will demand the £2m spend on a new hybrid surface – told of a man determined to drive up standards across all aspects of the club.
He has achieved that with bells on when it comes to the footballing form. It would now be a surprise if Celtic cannot turn 20 straight league wins into a British top-flight record, eclipsing the 25 sequence set by Martin O’Neill’s Parkhead side 13 years ago.
Indeed, it would even surprise if Celtic cannot turn their 31-game unbeaten domestic season – 30 of these games wins – into an entire campaign without defeat.
Rodgers gives the impression he will demand more than on-field records. He will demand a home field that isn’t a bare and bobbly surface he angrily declared inferior to many of the pitches at other Scottish clubs with a tiny fraction of Celtic’s resources.
When the club announced half yearly profits of more than £18m the other week, Rodgers was quick to talk of improving the training facilities at Lennoxtown, which, like the Celtic Park pitch, do not befit a club always harping about being of Champions League level. Rodgers, pictured, is such the uber-manager in the mould of into- everything men such as Jock Stein and Alex Ferguson – who both had the power to change their club’s kit – you imagine he might look for the club to sort out the kiosks and facilities for punters inside the club’s ground.
The Celtic manager had nothing much else to exercise him with a stoic Motherwell – altogether different from the crumbling team beaten 7-2 at Pittodrie days earlier – comfortably beaten. Brilliant wing play allowed James Forrest to add a clinching second goal just before half-time after Moussa Dembele smartly earned a penalty he converted.
The other talking point was an ugly challenge on Kieran Tierney by Ryan Bowman early in the second half. Rodgers gave the substitute, booked for the foul, the benefit of the doubt over the possibility he was lucky to avoid a dismissal and blamed a bobble caused by the pitch but the young Scotland full-back wasn’t so forgiving. He admitted he worried his season might be over only a matter of weeks after he returned from three months sidelined with injury.
“Straight away I thought something bad had happened,” the 19-year-old said. “He caught me on the kneecap. It was a horrible challenge. It was sore. You kind of know sometimes when you have done something and I thought it was bad.
“He caught me high and my knee is all cut. I feared the worst. Thankfully it was okay. I got lucky. Having just come back from injury, the last thing I wanted was another one. I got lucky. The pitch has a bobble on it but there are no excuses. It was a bad tackle.”
Bowman was apologetic immediately and could be seen standing over the hurting defender, whose facial expression told just how much he was hurting. Too much to be magnanimous about Bowman’s gesture and the fact he was still on the pitch to make it.
“He just said sorry to me after it. I didn’t say much back,” Tierney said. “I thought it was a red card. If you look at my knee just now, and the fact he caught me with his studs that high, then you’d think it would be. But that’s not my decision. The knee should be fine. It is sore but, other than that, it’s fine.”
The Celtic Park pitch isn’t, Tierney agreeing with Rodgers’ assertion that it makes entertaining football difficult. With Celtic’s last domestic home defeat in 2015, hardly impossible, though.