DID you hear the one about two football clubs, close neighbours and bitter rivals, one which was well run as the other ran out of money, and for the good guys there there is a happily ever after while the other’s ending is more fearful than fairytale?
Brendan Rodgers yesterday told this story, more a parable really, and while the protagonists were not in fact Celtic and Rangers, they would have well as been.There was little doubt what the Northern Irishman was getting at when he spoke about Mark Warburton, how clubs should and should not be run and why simply copying next door is never a good tactic.
If you are the type to turn to the last page of any book before you read it then, and this is a spoiler alert, everything Celtic do is right and, without specifically naming them, Rangers are doing it all wrong.
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Rodgers wasn’t boasting. He was merely pointing out his close working relationship with Peter Lawwell, the Celtic chief executive, the direct line he enjoys to major shareholder Dermot Desmond and how he understands the philosophy and strategy of the football club.
Everything that Warburton did not have.
Scott Brown recently said that all of Scottish football should watch how the team train and maybe they’d learn something. Turns out that invitation has been extended to the boardrooms as well.
“It’s not about the club, it’s about the right club,” said Rodgers. “I was always told that, especially if it’s one of your first jobs you are definitely for the chairman. Thankfully for me I had a great feeling the first time I met with Dermot and Peter. I loved the enthusiasm for the club. I felt the confidence that I could come in and impose how I wanted to work with freedom.
“I respect the workings of the club, the dynamics of the club, the financial side and all of that. We can really work together. That is vitally important.”
Rodgers and Celtic are the perfect fit. It is one of the many reasons why Warburton’s replacement, no matter how talented, is up against it. Rangers are still paying for the sins of their not-too-distant past. Atonement seems as far away as the league title.
Football has a habit of rewarding the prudent and punishing the reckless. Rodgers saw this before in a previous life.
“Every manager, when they go into a club, believe they can do things and be the very best they can," he said. "I am sure whoever goes into Rangers isn’t really worried about us and the job we do. They will try and get their own house in order and get the team right.
“And that’s when there is growth. You can’t be looking over your fence all the time. Or else you will only ever react to what they do. You need your own emotion, your own stability and clear plan. That’s why I say a clear strategy. Otherwise you can suffer.
“The best example ever is Swansea. This is a club that were within one game of going out the Football League. They beat Hull City on the last day of the season, stayed in the league and then they changed the ownership.
“A group of supporters who were local businessmen rolled their way out of the stand into the board room. They cut their cloth accordingly, they were simple in terms of what they wanted to do and in ten years they were in the Premier League.
“They got their reward for their strategic approach, for their football strategy, putting in place managers who understood that philosophy and just rolled it out year after year. From that against Hull to a decade later, they find themselves in a game worth £100m.
“We get through and they have been in the Premier League for five years. It’s wasn’t emotion, they knew where they were at. They couldn’t get any lower and then bang!
“If they had did what Cardiff did, they would have suffered. Cardiff spent big dough, they had big loans trying to get in there, Craig Bellamy signed, everyone was coming in, and yet we were the first team to get promoted.”
For South Wales, read the West of Scotland. The gap between Celtic and Rangers has never been greater. Even when the Parkhead club suffered their own financial problems, not once were they behind 27 points and growing.
The argument made by some is that Celtic and the Scottish game as a whole needs a strong or at least a stronger Rangers. Rodgers doesn’t quite see it that way.
"I came to Scotland for no other reason other than Celtic. That’s why I came, to give this club the best I possibly could and hopefully it could grow with that, knowing there would be real competitors wanting to beat you and wanting to win, and meeting the expectation of the supporters. But you want the strongest league you can possibly have. And I think it is a good league.”
Rodgers pointed to the many European leagues which have one or maybe two sides miles above the rest. This to his mind does not automatically mean such leagues shouldn’t be rated.
“Of course up here there isn’t the finance of a lot of those leagues but it shouldn’t take away from relatively how the players here fight, the Scottish boys, there are some really good players here, really passionate support. The competition is all relative, you have to win.”
And Celtic are doing an awful lot of that.