Brendan Rodgers: No let-up. I always fear complacency

Brendan Rodgers  celebrates Celtic's 5-0 demolition of Old Firm rivals Rangers.
Brendan Rodgers celebrates Celtic's 5-0 demolition of Old Firm rivals Rangers.
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There is little chance of Brendan Rodgers resting on his laurels when the Celtic manager is ever-mindful that the wreaths have spikes.

After banking a second consecutive title last Sunday with the sort of humiliation over the club’s derby rivals that is becoming ritualistic, Rodgers is now a Scottish Cup final win over Motherwell away from unprecedented back-to-back trebles.

The halcyon days that the Irishman has brought to Celtic are, in so many ways, without genuine domestic parallel. More than the fact that they are chasing a first six-trophy haul across two seasons, they are the first team to win seven titles without their hegemony ever being seriously threatened in such a run.

But lasting satisfaction does not come with that territory for Rodgers, pictured. He only needs to think about how quickly that the glow of delivering a treble in his first season began to dim.

“Look, the bad times are just around the corner,” said the 45-year-old. “So, no, I can’t really sit back and enjoy this. I had this last season, you know. We won the treble against Aberdeen [with victory in the Scottish Cup final] and then three days into my break, I had this fear of complacency. It’s a fear I always have.

“We produced a document on the traps we must not fall into to ensure we succeed over the longer term. When you are gone, when you are out of it, you can look back and all the nice moments can become clearer for you. But not right now.”

If hunger in paradise sounds like it ought to be the mantra for a Celtic manager on a ceaseless quest for betterment, it is even more than that for Rodgers. Because it is the name of a tome by FC Midtjylland chairman Rasmus Ankersen – full title Hunger in Paradise: How to Save Success from Failure – that appears to have become his footballing bible. “It is a great little book based around all the challenges you face,” he said. “Really, it’s all about people. It’s about managing people’s expectations and continually striving. That kind of thing interests me a lot. No matter how many titles you win, no matter how well you have played, you have to prove yourself every day, and take that mentality into the games.

“You can’t go soft, which is very easily done. You see it in football all the time, and in business as well, that if you do go soft after success, it doesn’t work. You have to keep pushing and that’s been the real pleasing factor of this season for me.

“OK, we have shown we are human. We have lost three games domestically in two years, and that number shows, more than anything else, the consistency of the players. The mentality shown by them over the 20 or so months I have been here has been exemplary, it really has.

“It’s something I am aware of as I lead the team. I want to make sure they are allergic to being complacent and lowering their standards.”

Maintaining those standards requires Rodgers to revitalise his squad as well as constantly challenge them. The fact the 5-0 demolition of Rangers was underpinned by a double from Odsonne Edouard as he deputised for derby destroyer Moussa Dembele demonstrated the potential for successful player turnover in a pivotal area of the team. It is likely that Edouard would cost Celtic in the region of 
£10 million to secure him on a permanent basis from Paris Saint-Germain – the 20-year-old was loaned from the French club last summer. That deal could be, in part, financed by selling the man he would effectively replace – Rodgers hinting again that Dembele could be ready to move on following two seasons in Glasgow that have demonstrated the 21-year-old possesses all the attributes to prosper on a bigger stage.

“Moussa is a fantastic player and the reasons why he has come here have borne fruit,” the Celtic manager said. “We wouldn’t want to lose him, but you have to think he’s a big talent and something may happen in the summer. We try to have the next one lined up.

“Odsonne is a top talent. If you look at him, we brought him in for a reason. He has developed and grown over the season. This is a wonderful place to continue with that education. We have Leigh Griffiths as well. He has suffered a bit with injuries this season, but he’s a top talent. We can use the best of the strikers in the games in order to win. I have said all along, and I know there were question marks about him, that Odsonne has everything. He needs an education and has a way to go, but he’s a top talent.

“He probably announced himself to the supporters in the previous league game against Rangers when he got the winner [in the 3-2 victory at Ibrox in March]. He showed it in other games, but he won’t get carried away.

“You have to keep players hungry and humble 
and keep them wanting to develop.” Rodgers makes that his mission.