Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers will not be bent or broken by the critics who have attacked him for his tactical inflexibility in the wake of Wednesday’s 7-1 mauling by Paris St Germain in the Parc des Princes, a beating which trumped PSG’s 5-0 victory at Parkhead in September and echoed last year’s 7-0 demolition job by Barcelona in the Camp Nou.
He claims that the stick comes with the territory for coaches who are determined to pursue a positive and creative approach to playing the game. The TalkSport radio station ran a preposterous listeners’ poll on Thursday, asking listeners to vote on whether Rodgers ought to be sacked.
The Irishman pointed out that Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, who are currently sweeping all before them at home and abroad, received similar brickbats last season.
“I’m beyond worrying about it,” he said. “I’m here to do the best for Celtic and I’ll do what I think is the best thing for the club.
“Hopefully, up until this point it has been okay. I continue to work that way, to be better, to improve the club in as many ways as I can help it. I would like to think the players have improved, both individually and as a team.
“They’ve shown courage to go and play. Of course, 7-1 – no-one wants that. It’ll always be open to ridicule from people who either don’t watch the game or just look at the result but I can’t affect that.
“During my career there’s always been there’s always been that level of criticism; when you have the balls to play then you’re always going to be open to that.
“Look at Guardiola last year – it was all about how they play compared to how other coaches and managers play. When you have an attacking philosophy, people think you don’t necessarily work on defending but, fundamentally, we defend very well, in terms of how we press and the aggression we have.”
Ironically, the Christmas video released by the club yesterday showed Rodgers parking the bus [or, if you prefer, the team coach], something his detractors would prefer he did when it comes to taking on Europe’s brightest and best.
“I would’ve needed a fleet of them over there wouldn’t I?” he grinned. Celtic’s defence may be forced to change yet again, however, with right-back Mikael Lustig, who limped off early in Paris, and his replacement, Nir Bitton, both doubtful for tomorrow’s BetFred Cup final against Motherwell.
Danish defender Erik Sviatchenko, who last played in the Champions League qualifying tie against Rosenborg on 2 August, is in the frame to start, along with Costa Rican full-back Cristian Gamboa and Norwegian Kristoffer Ajer.
Rodgers was also encouraged by the fact he did not need to restore his players’ confidence when they returned to the training ground following the GBH from PSG.
“Not at all. I haven’t had to lift them,” he said. “We’ve created a culture here that, if you lose a game, you reflect on it and then we move on because, when you play for Celtic, you quickly have another big game.
“We are unified whether we win or lose. In and around here today you would not have felt anything different and that’s because the players’ mentality is to be humble when you win, honest when you lose and to be better the next time we play.”