Something was eating Brendan Rodgers even before a question was put to him at the daily press conference yesterday. When the line of enquiry that followed, naturally, involved the never-ending helpings of transfer speculation which accompanies any transfer window, the sit-in didn’t prove easily digestible to the Celtic manager.
For one, it wasn’t even the normal sit-in. While ordinarily, Rodgers takes his chair and chats loquaciously with reporters over any subjects raised, yesterday the Irishman said he was too busy to sit, and elected to stand behind the chair set aside for him. An odd situation never witnessed before in his 19 months at the club, so too was the unmistakable curtness Rodgers displayed throughout.
It was hard to decipher whether the Celtic manager’s mood wasn’t helped by the fact the transfer-window natter seems to have revolved around losing players more than bringing them to the club.
In the context of yesterday’s conference, it certainly wasn’t helped by raising Kris Commons’ questioning of the club’s transfer activity in the area of central defence. The former Celtic playmaker effectively stated that if Jozo Simunovic was sold – the Bosnian international is reported to be on the radar of Lazio and Burnley – then Rodgers would not have a central defensive pairing fit for purpose for the Europa League tie against Zenit St Petersburg next month.
New signing Marvin Compper is ineligible for the competition, and injured now anyway. With Erik Sviatchenko having gone on loan to former club FC Midtjylland, Commons does not believe teenager Kristoffer Ajer could provide the necessary backline solidity alongside Dedryck Boyata – Rodgers’ recent preferred partnership.
The Celtic manager became narky initially when asked if there had been any concrete offers for Simunovic. “Nothing,” he said. “I don’t want to stand here and talk about players or waste my time trying to give you lines to put in the paper to look to sell players. There are no offers, there is nothing. That’s the same for every player.”
It was then put to Rodgers that “there is a particular scrutiny on you with Europe in mind to strengthen [in central defence]”.
“No, there is not. Scrutiny by whom?” he snapped.
By at least Commons himself, it was suggested?
“Ok, move on. [before under his breath and disdainfully saying] Kris Commons…”
With Nir Bitton also a centre-back option, Rodgers said central defence wasn’t a priority area: “Not for me, no”.
It was though when he was asked, in general terms, whether transfer speculation was what frustrated him most that he found a theme he could really vent his spleen over.
“Yes, it is. I am one that is about deeds not words. I have heard some s**t since I have been up here. It is the one part of your industry that I do not like. I don’t want to stand here and waste my time when I have a mountain of things to do rather than talk about speculation or what Kris Common or other guys have said. Everyone has an opinion but opinions are not always the reality.”
The reality is that Lewis Morgan, who has been loaned back to the St Mirren from whence he was purchased for £300,000, is the only notable signing by Celtic in the month of January. Yet, it was Rodgers who spoke of a “revolving door” at the club after the draw with Rangers on 30 December.
That might suggest a frustrating window so far for Rodgers. When that was put to him, he demurred. “No, not really,” he said. “We know what we want and we’re pretty calm on that. We just need to bring in quality. I’m not concerned about the numbers we bring in. The job here is to bring in quality to improve the level we are at, and that usually takes time.”
Rodgers said no bids have been made for players at other clubs but he expects that to change in the coming weeks and is “hopeful” Celtic will be stronger coming out of the window than going into it.