Brendan Rodgers tells team not to relax after new record

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers applauds the supporters at full time after his side defeated Hearts. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers applauds the supporters at full time after his side defeated Hearts. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
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Brendan Rodgers has urged his players not to rest on what he insists are richly deserved laurels after they broke the Lisbon Lions’ 50-year-old record for remaining unbeaten in domestic matches from the start of a season.

The Scottish champions swatted Hearts aside 4-0 to extend their sequence to 27 matches, eclipsing the mark set by Jock Stein’s all-conquering side in 1966-67.

It was a miserable afternoon for Hearts head coach Ian Cathro, who also saw defender John Souttar carried off on a stretcher with a suspected snapped Achilles tendon which is likely to end the player’s season.

Celtic also restored their 22-point lead at the top of the Premiership and Rodgers is determined there will be no let up in the relentless pace they have set as they pursue the club’s first domestic treble since 2001.

“I’ve said to them again, now we set the challenge going forward – we just have to keep winning,” said Rodgers. “That comes from our work on a day to day to basis, our concentration and just making sure we take care of all the background noise that goes on around it and just focus on the football. The players were magnificent at that today.

“The record is huge. I know, of course, the history of this club – 129 years – and how difficult it is. So it’s an incredible run. Every accolade the players get, they deserve, because of the focus, the spirit they foster within the team and the quality of the football they are producing. So we are very proud.

“They are out there on their own now with the record which is an incredible achievement. We have now got to look to Wednesday against Aberdeen and to keeping it running and to keep winning games and just keep setting the bar. That is what we will continue to do. It is a great group to work with and I think it is going to be an exciting period for us going forward. But just one game at a time, that is our approach.”

Amid the celebration of Celtic’s record, speculation persists over whether it was also Craig Gordon’s last appearance for the club. Rodgers insists there have been no developments in Chelsea’s pursuit of the Scotland international goalkeeper after they had an initial bid for him turned down by Celtic last week.

“There is nothing new,” said Rodgers. “He is a player we want to keep. Chelsea have an interest but for any interest to be activated there has to be a valuation of the player that has to be met. We don’t want to sell him of course but if there’s any way that would make Celtic think, then there has to be an offer that would allow us to do that as a club. And what came in was nowhere near that level.

“I have had a few conversations with him and he is clear where we are at.

“I understand the lure of it [Chelsea] and I understand what it would mean for Craig to go there as a number two for the next two years and waste away his career in not playing games.”

Rodgers believes further activity in the transfer market for Celtic is now unlikely before the window closes tomorrow night, with attempts to sign Nigerian forward Henry Onyekura having proved fruitless so far.

“I wanted to do some business in this window and would obviously be disappointed if I didn’t get the type of player that I wanted in,” he added. “But it’s fine, I’m working with the group that we’ve got, which, as you can see, is producing great performances. We will look to add to it in the summer. It’s through no fault of the club. We tried to do some work and bring in one or two to help. But, if not, we will definitely get it done in the summer. But I don’t anticipate it will get done in these next few days.”

Rodgers also reported no fresh progress on Hibs’ efforts to sign Kris Commons on a permanent basis after the attacking midfielder’s successful recent loan spell with Neil Lennon’s side.

“Kris has had a back issue this last week,” said Rodgers. “He had a good period at Hibs and they were keen to do something. It was between the clubs in terms of whether they could organise it, but also to do with Kris. Kris’s contract is up. He’s not just looking at the next six months, he is looking at the next few years. But in this moment he has had some treatment on his back and we will see what happens after that.”

Cathro said of Souttar’s injury: “It’s an Achilles issue for John, We don’t know the extent of it just now. As you saw, it didn’t look nice so we are concerned about that. It will be in the next few hours and tomorrow morning before we know exactly what that is.”