After penning a four-year-contract on Friday, Celtic fans were already looking forward to the Northern Irishman leading the club to ten-in-a-row. But it will be unlikely he sees out his contract, writes Joel Sked.
Go back to April last year. Sunday the 17th to be precise. Tom Rogic strolled forward from the centre circle. He had to score. The alternative was miss and send Rangers into their first Scottish Cup final since 2009.
As he ran up and planted his right foot, the turf moved and so did the penalty spot. His left foot sent the ball into the Glasgow sky.
Championship Rangers had defeated Premiership champions-to-be Celtic. There and then Ronny Deila was dead man walking. Celtic were believed to have already spoken to potential candidates before the semi-final had even taken place. If the Norwegian’s future was up in the air prior to the defeat it was bolted down with titanium afterwards – he was a goner.
As it has transpired, that semi-final will likely go down as the best derby defeat in the club’s history.
Sitting in the stands, Peter Lawwell and Dermot Desmond were compelled to spring into action. The defeat and subsequent antics of the Rangers directors, allegedly, led to a statement. Not one released on the club’s website but a statement of intent. A manager of substance, of pedigree, had to arrive.
And arrive he did.
In a move that was more akin to players being paraded after signing for Barcelona or Real Madrid, Brendan Rodgers was met by thousands at a sun-drenched Celtic Park having penned a one-year rolling contract.
On Friday that deal was consigned to the dustbin. In its stead sits a new four-year contract after a season which could hardly have gone any better. Celtic are six games from going the league season unbeaten, nine games from completing an unbeaten domestic season and treble. Plus qualification for the Champions League proper, with the added bonus of two draws with Manchester City.
It would have been foolish if Celtic didn’t get Rodgers on a new contract. It, more than anything, feeds into the feel good factor which surrounds the club, on all levels.
Under Deila fans had become slightly disillusioned, apathy was beginning to engulf the support. But the addition of the standing section and appointment of Rodgers has revitalised the Celtic Park faithful. The connection between fans and players, fans and management, is strong. It can be an undervalued benefit.
Furthermore, the new deal offers both parties slightly more security. Certainly in terms of finance. The club will be able to demand substantial compensation if another comes along and tries to persuade Rodgers to leave the “special feeling” he has developed in the east end of Glasgow.
However, Lawwell was bullish when questioned about the prospect of a club from a more affluent league coming along to pinch his manager. The Celtic chief executive mentioned the words “plans” and “ambition”.
While they were keen to play it down, the year the contract expires is significant: 2021. It is the year Celtic will be hoping to celebrate the unprecedented ten-in-a-row. But if there was one person in the room who added some rationale to proceedings, it was Rodgers himself. He used his experience at Liverpool as an example as to what can happen even with a long-term contract. It is not set in stone that Rodgers will still be in place come 2021.
In fact it would be very surprising to see Rodgers stay at Celtic Park for five years. Simply because if he continues this success into next season, especially in the Champions League, demand for his services will increase.
Not to mention the competitive factor. It would be completely understandable if his interest in the game north of the border waned. Where is the competition coming from?
Either it needs to go wayward at Celtic Park, or Rangers and Aberdeen need to make what now looks like a quantum leap to get within touching distance; a tall order which would either take unheard-of success in the transfer market or countless millions invested.
The 44-year-old will feel he has unfinished business in England, but will a job that’ll titillate Rodgers be available? The top six, and Everton can be added to that list, would unlikely see Rodgers as a strong candidate for any vacancy that arises.
And, despite the asinine ramblings of football luminaries like Jason Cundy, Celtic are bigger than plodding English Premier League sides like Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion. Though they would certainly offer a pathway towards the upper echelons.
Southampton and Newcastle United are possibly more realistic options. Yet, one of the major benefits for Rodgers at Celtic is that he has an influence and control which he would unlikely get anywhere else.
One avenue which has rarely been mentioned is that of Europe.
He has spoken before of his desire to manage in Spain with Rodgers already well versed with the language, communicating to the Spanish players at Liverpool in their native tongue. Their football culture suits his ethos.
That’s further down the line. Celtic fans should be content that the Northern Irishman will, at the very least, be at Celtic Park for another full season where they will reap the benefits.
Lawwell hailed Rodgers as “the nearest to the full package, in terms of having the lot” of the managers he has worked with.
He is the ideal manager for what the club are trying to achieve, as the chief executive outlined, “it’s about development, creating, building teams as opposed to being able to buy then.”
Rodgers has displayed such qualities with the development of the vast majority of players at the club. None more so than the Scottish core which is of benefit to the national team and Gordon Strachan.
The club and players lost their way slightly under Deila. Not only has Rodgers put them back on track but got them moving faster and better than before.
He has brought an x-factor to the league. He has brought interest from England, even if it is mostly patronising and at times simply disrespectful. But he is both a supporter of the game in Scotland and an excellent marketing tool for the league. Even if his David Brent comparisons still linger.
A notable occasion was when talking about a Rangers fan approaching him in the Clyde Tunnel to say he was a breath of fresh air. There’ll be more to come, it’s his nature, his personality. And it will be interesting when, maybe if, Celtic hit a sticky patch, a rut, how he reacts to the incessant Scottish press, which I am sure for someone on the other side can be overbearing.
But so far it has been nothing but a success for Celtic’s best summer signing, with plenty more to come.
The new contract was treated with delight from the green and white side of Glasgow, as it should be. However, his presence should be savoured because as Rodgers says “you never know what will happen.”