For his 44th birthday on Thursday, Brendan Rodgers took himself off to The Stand Comedy Club in Glasgow. Had the Celtic manager really wanted to go native, he could have participated in one of the many celebrations of Robert Burns on the week of the Bard’s birthday. And nodded sagely, when the immortal line was uttered as to how “the best laid plans of mice and men, gang aft agley”.
Before the January transfer window opened, the Irishman stated his intention to use this period to have his squad in place for next season’s Champions League assault. He identified that need to prevent new players having to bed in across a summer wherein Celtic are pitched into a qualifying campaign come mid-July. Only Ivory Coast midfielder Eboue Kouassi has arrived thus far, at a cost of £2.8 million, with attempts continuing to prise Nigerian goalscorer Henry Onyekuru from Belgian club KAS Eupen.
The recruitment of two teenage prospects wasn’t the only business Rodgers had in mind for a window that will only be open for three more days. Yet he is sanguine and non-accusatory about an inability to close other deals.
“[My squad] won’t be as I want it, I don’t think, by the end of the window,” said Rodgers. “If we don’t get the players that I would want through not being available, then OK. I’m happy with the players in the squad that we have. I’ll just have to wait until the summer in order to do the next bit.
“It’s through no fault of the club. This window is always tough. I won’t just bring in anyone. It has to be a player who’s going to improve our squad. If that isn’t available, for whatever reason, then there’s not much you can do. It’s not Football Manager on the computer, where you just pull them out and transfer them. It’s a wee bit more than that. So if it doesn’t happen, OK. I’d want it to but if it doesn’t, we just have to wait and be patient.”
Rodgers can afford to be patient. In maximising his resources, he has transformed his playing pool into one that looks capable of negotiating three Champions League qualifying grounds – as they did in his early days, albeit at times by the skin of their teeth.
Moreover, at home to Hearts this afternoon they can do what no Scottish team has in the modern day game and that is contest 27 domestic games from the start of a season without loss. Overtaking the Lisbon Lions 26-game tally from 50 years ago will be applauded by those such as kitman John Clark and former Celtic winger Bobby Lennox, who are not men to trumpet their own glorious achievements.
“It shows you the humility that these guys have,” said Rodgers. “I love it, seeing it around the club. Bumping into Bobby Lennox and all these guys. It’s a huge part of the history here but we have to create our own, that’s the idea.
“I think what the boys have done so far is a huge achievement, irrespective of what happens this weekend they’ve been brilliant. But this is a chance for them to stand alone. And that is obviously an incredible achievement when you consider all the difficulties you can have in modern football, everyone fighting to beat you.
“So to have gone 26 games so far has been great. We will do what we’ve always done, there’s no change. Focus on our performance. Look to play well, to create opportunities, to score, defend aggressively and strong and if the consequence of that is a win or a draw then so be it. But we are cool on it. We will see what happens.
“I don’t tend to talk about it before the game. It can give a pressure that they don’t need. My focus is always de-pressure the situation so players can perform. What did get a mention the other night [when the record was equalled with a 1-0 victory over St Johnstone] was to make sure we can win for Scott Brown. He was playing his 400th game for the club and everything he’s done for every team he’s been in and as a mark of his commitment: win.
“History, I think is great, but when you win games there’s a consequence to it. I won’t talk so much about it. Every manager will tell you the same, you just want to win and what comes from that is a result.”