THE success which Brendan Rodgers has savoured since being appointed Celtic manager a year ago this very day is certain, despite the low regard which Scottish football is held in by so many, to have generated interest in him from clubs down south and further afield.
Yet, Rodgers, who was yesterday named as both the official Ladbrokes Premiership Manager of the Year as well the William Hill Scottish Football Writers’ Association Manager of the Year, has given another strong indication that he intends to remain at Parkhead for some time to come
Listening to the Irishman, whose side will be presented with the Premiership trophy tomorrow following their final league game against Hearts at Celtic Park, talk about his happiness in his current role and his long-term vision for the club at Lennoxtown yesterday it seemed highly doubtful he will be departing any time soon.
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“Listen, the Premier League is a wonderful league,” he said. “But I’m happy to get different experiences. I started young as a coach and a manager so I’ve still got a long time left in me to achieve what I want to achieve. That could take me anywhere in the world.
“The finances involved in the Premier League, and the challenge there, is huge. But it’s about being happy and I’ve found a real happiness here. I could go elsewhere and be financially a lot better off. But I’ve learned through time and experience that life’s about more than that.”
Should Celtic, who have gone undefeated in the 45 domestic fixtures they have been involved in so far this term, add the William Hill Scottish Cup to the Betfred Cup and Ladbrokes Premiership trophies they have already won they will complete only the fourth treble in their 129 year history.
What would there be left for Rodgers to achieve then? Emulating the achievement of the Lisbon Lions, who famously lifted the European Cup 50 years ago on Thursday, is a feat which is certainly way beyond their capabilities given the superior finances of their continental rivals now.
But Rodgers, who started out coaching kids after his playing career was brought to an abrupt end by injury, is confident that significant strides forward can still be made in the Champions League despite their limited budget by ensuring every age-group embraces an identical ethos to the first team.
The 44-year-old takes an active interest in the progress of the kids coming through the youth ranks despite the huge demands which there are on his side to perform and revealed that he had visited Barrowfield just this week to see them in action.
Asked about the possibility of Celtic making a greater impression in Europe going forward, he said: “It’s a huge task and it’s a huge ask. The budgets are night and day different. The revenue streams are very, very difficult, but we have to push. We have to do our very best. It’s always going to be very difficult. I’m optimistic, but I’m realistic.
“People go back to the era when Martin (O’Neill) was here, but there was a big financial input into the club and it’s nowhere near that now, with all due respect.
“How can we find a way? Can we find it through a football idea? Can we bring the club together with a philosophy that runs right the way through, that’s ingrained within the kids, through the development teams straight on to the first team?
“The vision and the view of the future is pretty clear here, in terms of where we want to go. There is so much there that we can develop and improve. However long I’m here I want to influence, where it’s required and in the most positive way that I can.”
Rodgers was greeted by a crowd of around 15,000 supporters at Parkhead when he was unveiled on this day 12 months ago. So how has his first year been? Has it met his expectations?
“It has been better,” he said. “I never thought I could be this happy - in everything really. I have got great relations with the directors, a great working relationship and a real respect for Peter (chief executive Lawwell). On a daily basis we communicate.
“They have given me freedom to work and as a coach in the modern game it is very hard to get that. They offered me the ability to create and be the architect of the club and they have been true to their word. Absolutely amazing. I have constant feedback from Dermot (major shareholder Desmond).
“Any coach or manager will tell you the same, is that when you have the trust from the people above you and the board and the ownership it gives you huge, huge confidence. The minute you feel that go then it is very, very difficult in the modern era. It can be a slow death.
“And you feel it. There is no hiding, no getting away from it, you just know. For me here that swell of support I have had is incredible. I couldn’t ask for any more.”
Rodgers is hopeful the achievements of his Celtic side this season have been a fitting tribute to their illustrious predecessors, The Lisbon Lions.
“They have played with a lot of the values that team created back then,” he said. “The spirit, the togetherness, the creativity, the never-say-die attitude. The one thing we can all learn from that era is the humility. I speak to John [Clark] on a daily basis and what they gave us back then was inspirational for us.”