Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers yesterday defended his players Mikael Lustig and Scott Brown following accusations from Aberdeen captain Graeme Shinnie that they had no “class” with their celebrations at the end of their Betfred Cup final victory over the Pittodrie men.
And the Irishman maintained he would not tolerate lack of respect for opponents from his squad. Speaking as he prepared his team for a trip to Motherwell that will see him without hamstring-sidelined Dedryck Boyata, who could miss most of December with the injury sustained in the final win, Rodgers had no truck with criticisms of his players’ conduct at Hampden as they achieved the “incredible” feat of lifting a seventh consecutive domestic trophy.
Both Shinnie and his manager Derek McInnes castigated Lustig for seeming to taunt the 19-year-old midfielder in the closing seconds of the final, with Brown also appearing to sneer in the faces of Ferguson and Shinnie.
The Aberdeen manager was moved to stride on the pitch to confront the Swede over his behaviour once the final whistle had sounded. Shinnie, meanwhile, refused to shake Brown’s hand in the aftermath.
Rodgers, who said he had “never” had words with an opposing player, conceded that the bad blood between the pair dating back to last season “probably” contributed to the Aberdeen skipper’s condemnation of his Celtic counterpart.
“It is disappointing,” Rodgers said of the Aberdeen’s camp charge that Lustig and Brown had shown a lack of class, stating that he would “always” clamp down if he thought his players were exhibiting such behaviour.
“It is one of the values that we set when I first arrived. In our organisation you need to have those values of how you want to work because they provide the signposts for your daily life and respect is the very first one.
“I understand the emotion if you lose a game of that magnitude and when you want something so much. I didn’t see Mikael Lustig goad the boy Ferguson at all.
“I watched the game back when I went home and I think that there is something right towards the end when the end when the ball is in the corner.
“The referee blows the whistle and it looks like the end of the game and Mika celebrates – as you would having won a cup final – but as he is walking forward he realises that it is not the end of the game. “I don’t think there was any goading. If you look at us as a team and you look at our records, I think we are a very sporting team considering that every game we play is a huge pressure game. “Every game is a cup final not just the cup finals. The players and their record and what they are from a discipline perspective is exemplary. So I can’t agree with that [lack of “class” charge].
“For some players, they will give it out and you have to be ready to take it. I also say that if you are a manager on the side of the field - and I say this generically - who gets involved with players, if something comes back to you then you have to be ready to take that. I don’t go down the route that we lack any of those qualities. It is not something I would agree with.
“[Shinnie has said Brown hates him but] if he played with him and worked with him then I am sure that Graeme would see him as one of the best professionals that he has come across.
“In the game Browny, like some players... they become a different character when they go on the field, and there are a lot of players like that. There is a lot of small talk that you never hear of. It is on the field it happens. “Like Jonny Hayes, before he came he would probably have had an opinion of Scott and I guarantee you that if you asked him now it would be the total opposite now.”