Lying on beach helps Celtic’s Brendan Rodgers earn place in the sun

Brendan Rodgers holds aloft the Scottish Cup following Saturday's comfortable win against Motherwell. Caption: John Devlin.
Brendan Rodgers holds aloft the Scottish Cup following Saturday's comfortable win against Motherwell. Caption: John Devlin.
0
Have your say

Creating history can be as draining as it is rewarding. Brendan Rodgers most certainly deserves some serious R&R as he heads out on holiday to Majorca today.

But while the Celtic manager will take some time to reflect on the enormity of his achievement in leading his club to the unprecedented feat of back-to-back Scottish domestic trebles, he knows it won’t be long before his mind is racing again 
with thoughts of how to maintain their 
dominance next season.

That relentlessly driven mentality of Rodgers has been the key factor in him becoming the first Celtic manager to win six consecutive domestic trophies, beating the sequence of five previously overseen by both of the iconic duo of Willie Maley and Jock Stein.

Momentous landmarks will continue to loom large on Rodgers’ horizon next season. A successful defence of the League Cup would see him equal the all-time Scottish record of seven successive domestic trophy wins set by Walter Smith at Rangers from 1992 to 1994.

Rodgers has previously spoken of his constant fear of complacency setting in, a dread which first settled on him just a few days into his summer break last year in the aftermath of Celtic’s remarkable ‘Invincible’ campaign.

He fully anticipates a similar feeling will wash over him as he lounges by the pool this week but he will again quickly embrace the unforgiving and endless expectations which envelop his job.

“It will probably happen again in midweek,” he says with a smile. “I’ll be sat in Majorca and it will all kick in. But I think it’s great for the people to enjoy right now.

“I will get away on Monday and rest for a bit, which is important. I will re-energise and then it will all be about thinking about going again next year.

“It can be difficult to switch off. There is always work to do, but in order to have the resilience, you have to break the cycle.

“You come out of the battle for a while, because you can’t be in the battle for the length of time we are in it. You have to come out and rest and recover because that gives you the energy to go again.

“If you can, enjoy it, because it’s never easy. If you are at the big clubs, that reality is always there, it’s never disappearing. So I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the big games, the players are ready and focused. It’s what it’s about – I am up here to win and there is pressure. I love that side of it – and sometimes I don’t. That’s just the way it goes.

“You could never imagine it could go as well as it has for me at Celtic. From the first day I walked into the club, it’s been amazing. It’s always complex, it’s never as easy as it seems when you win.

“A lot of stuff goes on behind the scenes, a lot of work, the brilliant staff and the club has really supported me in my time here, strategically. All the interests are aligned at the club and that allows me to work with confidence. But to think we’d be standing here two years later having created history – no, I’d be lying if I thought that would happen.”

The remarkable feat of successive clean sweeps was completed with a 2-0 Scottish Cup final victory over Motherwell at Hampden which was a perfect example of Celtic’s tactical intelligence under Rodgers.

“You always have to respect the other team,” he said. “Motherwell test you and our defenders dealt really well with that.

“We played 3-4-3, which gives us the three at the back to cope with their two strikers. It gives us the spare man in midfield, four versus three, and then we pushed our boys on the sides high up to try and take Motherwell back. Physically, we coped with that really, really well. Then our football came out.

“You’ve always got to find a story, find a way to motivate. I said to the 
players that they woke up on 
Saturday morning with a moment to 
create history.

“You don’t get many times like that in your life. So go and take it and make sure it can live with you forever.

“Because if you don’t, then you’ll be lying on a sunbed in a couple of weeks’ time and it won’t flipping taste nice! Those are the ones that you’ll remember.”

Celtic, inevitably, were not as consistently
impressive this season as they were during
the remarkable undefeated domestic 
campaign of 2016-17. Their dominance was achieved in a different manner this time around, one which brought Rodgers just as much satisfaction.

“I think what we gained from this year is that when we’re not always at our best, we can still win,” he said. “That’s important. We had 61 games, that’s a lot of training and preparation and big-game mentality. The players will come out of this confident. They will get a bit of a longer rest this summer as well. As a manager, I then have to push them harder next season.”