Brendan Rodgers appeared to send out mixed messages after he was linked with the manager’s position at Aston Villa.
Rodgers watched his Celtic side slam St Johnstone 6-0 in Perth to shake off the goalscoring issues that have blighted them early season. But talk after the game turned quickly to the vacancy at Villa Park.
Reports suggest that Thierry Henry is the English Championship side’s preferred choice to replace Steve Bruce, who was sacked last week. But Rodgers is also believed to be on their short-list and the Celtic manager spoke warmly of the Midlands side and their fanbase, while stressing he was happy in his current job.
“You get linked to a number of things,” he said. “When clubs need a manager there is always a raft of names mentioned. It’s a huge club, it’s a Premier League club, great facilities. I said it before when young John McGinn was going. Brilliant support base, good history.
“But I’m sure they will know who they want to go in there. I’ve got a great job here, a very exciting challenge this season. You can’t rule me out because I’ve never been asked but for me it’s one where I’m really happy here.”
Rodgers’ more immediate focus concerned his players’ ability to recover from the punishing 3-1 defeat they suffered in Salzburg to post the biggest victory of his two-and-a-half years in charge, with a blistering display centred around an astonishing 30-minute first-half four-goal haul from James Forrest.
“I said to the players, there is no excuse. We have done it often enough over the last few years, coming off the back of really tough games in midweek and stepping up the performance level and intensity at the weekend. We have no excuses. Salzburg was a tough game against a top-class team but getting over it is important. I never tend to dwell too much on the negative. We know how we could have been better. I demand that we technically play the game to a level and today we did that. It was very good.
“It was an outstanding team performance, much more like our level. We’re getting back to where I want us to be and it all starts with that will and intensity to get the ball back.”
In contrast, St Johnstone counterpart Tommy Wright endured the most miserable experience of his six-year tenure on Perth. Yet, he did not shirk that his heaviest defeat – on a day when he eclipsed Willie Ormond’s record for top-flight games in charge of the club with 198 matches – could have been of far more excruciating proportions.
“We just kept giving the ball away, didn’t make a tackle, couldn’t cope with Forrest and we were torn apart,” he said. “The biggest disappointment is that a lot of the times we gave away the ball when we shouldn’t have, Celtic countered on us with pass, power and ruthlessness.
“But for Zander Clark it could have been more. To be fair to them, in the second-half they knuckled down and made sure it didn’t reach double figures, which it could have.”
Wright spun round from his technical area to remonstrate with a fan giving him abuse as his side conceded a fourth goal in 38 minutes and expressed no regrets over doing so.
“I am not apologising for it,” he said. “If he wants to have a go then I’m prepared to have a go back. I think I’ve done enough here and the players have done enough. I always think the definition of supporter is to support the team and get behind the team, not shout drunken comments.
“Listen, I’m not apologising. Not a chance.”