Winning isn’t everything for Brendan Rodgers

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers. Pic: SNS
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers. Pic: SNS
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There is no need to reconcile in the mind of Brendan Rodgers that you can never win enough, but that winning itself can never be enough.

The Celtic manager is afforded the opportunity to extended his faultless trophy record across two-and-a-bit years to seven this afternoon. Yet for all that he is a double-treble winner, for all that today’s Betfred Cup final allows him to join former Rangers manager Walter Smith as the only men to have snared seven successive Scottish domestic honours, he refuses to see his work only in terms of hulking metal casts.

“Winning is what we’ll be judged on at the end of it but that’s never solely been my own measure,” he said. “It has always been about development of players, development of people, and hopefully creating an environment that allows winning.

“My joy comes from seeing everyone else. It really does.

I love seeing people happy. I ask people to celebrate success, I want them to enjoy it but I think sometimes when you are the leader you tend to look for the next experience. And very quickly.

“It wouldn’t give me the satisfaction for winning to be everything. I know from time to time you can win and maybe not play so well. I get that. But over the course of time – and I’ve been coaching over 20-odd years now – I take greater joy on seeing the football and the level that we play. And the consequence of that is that. But it wouldn’t fulfill me, it just wouldn’t, to just be about winning.

“I recognised that when I first went in to management [in late 2008]. In my first job at Watford, we had a fantastic result at the time against Roberto Martinez’s Swansea. I think they were playing really well at the time, had drawn with Fulham in the FA Cup. Then we were playing them in midweek.

“Malky {Mackay], Dychey [Sean Dyche], Warbs {Mark Warburton] were there, Frank Lampard senior, all on such a high. And I was flat because, yes we won the game, but it wasn’t how I wanted us to win. And I think that told me really early on in my career as a manager that it’s going to be more than just winning that matters to me.

“It got performance of the week, but, nah, I like my teams to win with a certain identity, while knowing that you can’t do it all the time. There have been games we have had to dig out out, tough it out, so I get all that. I like my teams to play with a certain idea and that’s what drew me to coaching and that for me is what coaching is: that relationship between the training and the game. And if you can get that fusion, that’s what makes me happy.”

Celtic have won in style, not least in the League Cup. Rodgers indeed ranks the performance in the final defeat of today’s opponents Aberdeen two years ago for his first trophy, as one of the high points of that invincible trebles season. Many of the players who delivered that success will again take to the field today. Celtic are not a shop-bought team but one that Rodgers has customised, with the likes of James Forrest, Callum McGregor, Tom Rogic, Kieran Tierney and now Ryan Christie polished to gleam.

“That’s what gives me the joy,” the 45-year-old said. “That’s what makes me happy so whenever I meet those boys later on in life then they can look me in the eye and say he really helped me as a player to develop. Look at young Conor Coady playing for Wolves this week. I gave Conor his debut at Liverpool and to see him go on, that is what I enjoy, that side of it.”