SportSoccer

Rodgers' reputation rehab continues apace at Celtic

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers

THIS time last year, few had any sympathy for Brendan Rodgers.

Ushered out of the door at Liverpool with ruthless brutality, it was hard to see how this discredited tactician could return to the game’s top table.

Long before he was put of his misery at Liverpool, Rodgers had been cast by many as a village idiot, as he became a social media punch-bag who could have been forgiven for banking his huge pay-off and walking away from the game for good.

Yet as Jurgen Klopp toasted the first anniversary of his arrival at Liverpool last weekend, the man he replaced finds his career rapidly moving back on an upward trajectory.

Rodgers knew he could not afford a second high-profile failure on his record as he considered the numerous job offers that came his way last summer, with some of the options presented to him laced with peril he could not consider.

There was talk of a return to his former club Swansea, but that would have highlighted his need to take a step or two backwards in his career and that demotion did not appeal.

Then there were the rumours that he was being lined up to take over from Jose Mourinho after he was sacked by Chelsea last December. 

Now that was never going to happen.

In the end, Rodgers was presented with an opportunity that perfectly fitted his needs, with the job of Celtic manager a dream post for any manager with Irish roots, even though doubts over his appointment were quickly aired.

Parkhead hero Paul Lambert and Ireland legend Roy Keane were more popular candidates to succeed Ronny Deila, with Rodgers having much to prove as he donned the green tie for the first time as Celtic manager.

Yet as his team prepares a Champions League clash against Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday, Rodgers’s remarkably swift rehabilitation is close to completion.

After their 5-1 drubbing of Rangers laid down a marker in the Scottish Premiership last month, Celtic’s thrilling 3-3 draw against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City provided the most compelling evidence that Rodgers has taken Celtic off their life-support machine.

As tends to be the case in this fickle sport, his vocal doubters have evaporated without trace, with the jibes drowned out by praise for a manager who has revived his career in Glasgow.

“What Brendan Rodgers has done over the last few months is nothing sort of a miracle,” former Celtic striker Chris Sutton told the Sunday World.

“Honestly, they would have lost that game against Manchester City 6-0 if Ronny Deila was in charge and Rodgers has turned it all around in such swift fashion.

“Brendan inherited a mess at Celtic and had to start from scratch, but he has brought a professionalism to the club that was badly needed. 

“Rodgers had a hard time in his final few months at Liverpool, but he has come to the right club at the right time in Celtic and everyone around the club is buzzing again.”

Rodgers has followed a route David Moyes would have been wise to take after he was bombed out of the Manchester United hot-seat in unceremonious fashion.

When you lose your job at one of the biggest clubs in world football, it is tough to bounce back and, while Moyes has yet to clear his head from his Old Trafford knock-out, Rodgers is starting to resemble a champion in the making all over again.

Using his impressive contacts book to recruit Kolo Toure, Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair, Rodgers has put Celtic back on track and the results on the field are not his only notable triumph.

Impressively, a manager noted for his inflated opinion of himself has clearly taken a step back and set about changing his image after making a return to the game.

It was easy to chuckle at Rodgers’s desperation to link himself with Liverpool’s history during his time at Anfield, even though he had done little or nothing to be put on a pedestal alongside the club’s icons.

Yet he has not tried to replicate that rhetoric at a club that has much in common with Liverpool when it comes to cherishing a proud history.

Rodgers is letting his players take centre stage and, with a Champions League game against Monchengladbach followed by a League Cup semi-final against Rangers, these are the kind of weeks Celtic fans feared they may not see again.

Who would have thought one of the fall-guys of 2015 would the choreographer of one of football’s feel-good stories 12 months later?