Brendan Rodgers ‘loves life’ at Celtic and eyes 10 in a row

With a record turnover of £90 million, profit of £6.9m, Champions League football and an unprecedented unbeaten domestic treble to reflect upon, it was reasonable to expect that the 2017 Celtic agm wouldn’t be a setting for discord or dissent.

With a record turnover of £90 million, profit of £6.9m, Champions League football and an unprecedented unbeaten domestic treble to reflect upon, it was reasonable to expect that the 2017 Celtic agm wouldn’t be a setting for discord or dissent.

If the Scottish champions and their shareholders have ever had it so good, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when that might have been.

But while there was plenty of justifiable back-slapping evident and gratitude being expressed in the Kerrydale Suite at Celtic Park yesterday, there were also reminders that you simply can’t please all of the people all of the time.

From gripes about matchday catering and ticket office queues, angry queries about any developments in the ongoing saga of the SFA awarding Rangers a Uefa licence in 2011 and even a protest about Celtic using team buses supplied by the company owned by Ibrox director Douglas Park, there were no shortage of complaints directed towards chairman Ian Bankier and his top table colleagues.

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Indeed, it wasn’t until the tenth question posed from the floor during the period reserved for any other business that someone perhaps realised that one of those men on the podium might have been starting to wonder if he really had just presided over one of the most successful seasons in the club’s history.

“There seems to be a bit of moaning going on here,” said a young shareholder. “I’d just like to thank Brendan Rodgers
for what he did last season and ask him if he’s going to be here for ten-in-a-row”.

A wide grin finally appeared on the Celtic manager’s face and he duly provided the response his inquisitor wanted to hear.

“That’s the only question I ever get asked here,” laughed Rodgers. “I love my life here at the moment. I extended my stay last season so there is no reason why I wouldn’t be [here for ten-in-a-row]. It is a great moment and a great cycle here in the history of the club and my job is to add to the legacy that is already here.

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“For me and my staff to add to that we can only do that by being here for a number of years.”

The following contributors from the floor all subsequently made a point of adding their congratulations to Rodgers, including Fran Scally
who described himself as a sixth generation Celtic fan who, after giving up alcohol two years ago, said his weekends have been provided with a much greater buzz by the football produced under the former Liverpool boss.

He did, however, feel the need to take Rodgers to task slightly over the central defensive situation at the club where injuries have severely restricted Celtic’s options there in the Champions League. It was an area the manager admitted needs to be addressed.

“There is no doubt that we need to get in another centre-half,” said Rodgers, who has been linked with a January move for Reading’s Liam Moore. “The problem for me is availability of players but it’s something we are looking at.”

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Chief executive Peter Lawwell, who paid Rodgers the compliment of stating “I don’t think there is anyone else in world football I’d rather have as Celtic manager”, was asked about a potential redevelopment of the Main Stand at Celtic Park to increase the current overall ground capacity of 60,000. He confirmed it was something the board had looked into but that it was unlikely at the moment.

“The stand is old, it was built in 1971, but the cost of redevelopment would be major - around £30-£40m,” said Lawwell. “Do you get payback for that or is the money better spent elsewhere? The question is also if you could fill a 70,000 or 80,000 capacity stadium on a regular basis.”

When the opening contribution from the floor was put to Lawwell, with shareholder Alex McFarlane asking why Celtic “subsidise the club across the city” by using Parks of Hamilton to supply their official team buses, the CEO jokingly replied: “Can I answer the next question please?” before swatting it aside effectively.

“We need to be above that,” said Lawwell. “It’s on an operational basis and it’s very difficult to find alternatives. I don’t accept that we are subsidising Rangers. It’s an independent company owned by an individual who lends money to Rangers – but that’s a stretch [to say we are subsidising them].”

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There were several questions about what Celtic shareholders have come to know as Resolution 12, from when they first raised the issue of 
Rangers’ 2011 European licence at a previous agm, including one from Celtic Supporters Association general secretary Joe O’Rourke who demanded that “cheats are made to pay for crimes against football”.

All queries on this subject were calmly handled by the phlegmatic Celtic company secretary Michael Nicholson. He expressed the club’s disappointment that the SFA had turned down an independent review into Rangers’ use of an EBT tax scheme but welcome the referral of the issue to the SFA’s Compliance Officer. Nicholson stated there was no timescale on the investigation but Celtic would respect the process while watching it with “keen interest”.

All directors due for re-election to the board, including major shareholder Dermot Desmond, were duly voted through. The Irish billionaire, as has become customary, was not present and was represented by his alternate Michael Walsh.

One shareholder referenced the recent Panorama programme which implicated Desmond in the ‘Paradise Papers’ investigation into tax avoidance, alleging a private jet company he owned opened an Isle of Man base to escape Swiss taxes. That prompted a withering response from Bankier, pictured.

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“As a club we deeply resent being associated with the scuttlebutt that was the Panorama programme,” said the Celtic chairman. “It was nothing to do with Celtic or UK tax – it had nothing to do with anything. In fact, it was 
boring stuff.”