Celtic’s training ground at Lennoxtown is currently home to all manner of workmen. New surfaces are being laid, and in a far corner an airdome, indoor full-size pitch will soon be erected. Brendan Rodgers has been the catalyst for the major upgrade of a near decade-old complex, just as the Celtic manager will drive the club to install a new hybrid surface at Celtic Park. If all that sounds like a man bedding in at the post he took up last June, the Irishman seems to caution against such a reading of his remodelling of the club in all areas.
This afternoon Rodgers faces a fourth derby encounter with Rangers, but the 44-year-old gave little indication there would be a whole host of such confrontations ahead for him, in what appeared to mark a shifting of tone about his length of tenure.
“My plan in my time here is just to do the very best that I can,” he said. “Whether that’s for one year or another four or five years, I want to raise the standard here that hopefully pushes the club to the maximum. I’m on a one-year contract so you can’t predict a manager’s stay. You can’t say how long you are going to be there.
“On a Saturday you walk on water and on a Monday you’re the devil. A manager would love to say that you can stay and build something but modern society doesn’t really allow you to do that. You look at [Claudio] Ranieri. So for all you’d like to say this or that you can only promise that while you are here that you do the very best that you can. You want to set out a vision that hopefully allows the club to go forward.
“My obligation is for a legacy here. So what is the one I want to leave here? That compared to the first day that I walked in, on the day that I walk out the club is in a better place. Can I develop players? Can I influence players to play the game in a different way to what they maybe thought before? If that spreads to helping the Scottish game, then great. And I hope I can bring some sort of profile to a game that everyone was starting to ridicule. People were maybe putting Scottish football down but hopefully now people are thinking, ‘actually, it’s OK up there’. That’s my legacy for Celtic for however long that is. Time will tell.”
That is somewhat different to Rodgers saying the other month he envisaged staying as long as the club wants him. He knows he has a four-year tenure on that basis if he wants it because there is no possibility of Celtic being knocked off their perch by the Ibrox side they will entertain today. The question is whether he does want more than a one-year stay when the summer is likely to present the possibility of vacancies at Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal that he could be considered for, and certainly which he would be ideally suited for.
It may be that he is too successful too quickly. If he leads Celtic to only a fourth treble in their history, and does so without losing a domestic game after performing creditably in a dastardly difficult Champions League group, it would make for a season monstrously difficult ever to top. Yet, he sees aspects of the challenge presented to someone priding himself as a developer of players in Scottish football that all the riches of the English Premier League do not provide.
“You just don’t have the finances up here to compete with it,” he said. “Years ago you could get somewhere near but having been at Liverpool for three-and-a-half years and knowing what they are and the scale of it is difficult, but you have to find other ways. I don’t see it as a negative. If you are a player or manager working in the Premier League you can maybe double, triple or quadruple your wages but I have learnt that happiness is more important, you have to be happy in your work.
“Of course salary is important. I will never go back to Ireland when I am 70 with my walking stick and get a loaf of bread on loyalty. I’ll walk in and probably by that time it will cost me a fiver. I am not going to get it given to me, so I respect that you have to earn, particularly for players because it’s such a short career but it’s not everything.
“My experience now tells me I’d much rather be happy and in something that I can create and build as opposed to fighting fires all the time.”