Brendan Rodgers adopts siege mentality in response to ‘narrative’ firmly against Celtic

Hoops’ supporters increasingly fear losing the league, whereas cross-city Rangers fans properly believe side can win it

Celtic could yet retain the Scottish Premiership. Any assertion that they will not — hardly wild based on evidence available from the table or umpteen matches — seems to have irked manager Brendan Rodgers. Not that it takes much to irritate the Celtic boss; his sour tone has been an intriguing, constant feature of this second spell in Glasgow. One has been left to ponder why he bothered cutting short a planned sabbatical from the game to return to Celtic last summer.

Celtic trail Rangers by two points and six goals with 11 league games remaining. In other leagues, this would be no cause for firm opinion but the weakness of Scotland’s top flight means Rodgers cannot rely on other teams nicking points from Rangers. The Ibrox side has been completely rejuvenated by Philippe Clement, to the degree that they play with the swagger and belief of champions. Celtic have two key elements on their side: successive and deserved victories over Rangers in the premiership this season, and a level of recent title specialism not at all evident across the city. Still, when Rodgers claimed back-to-back championships at Celtic from 2017, he did so with Rangers 39 and 12 points adrift. A title race worthy of the name has Rodgers trying desperately to forge a siege mentality.

To Rodgers, the “narrative” is firmly against Celtic. He has scoffed at “crisis mode” perceptions. At the weekend, he pointed out that “there’s a story been written” about his group of players. Probing from a BBC journalist about what precisely Rodgers meant — a wholly legitimate line of questioning — led to the 51-year-old cutting short an interview and branding his questioner a “good girl”. This condescending moment led to widespread criticism. Celtic’s silence over the matter and Rodgers’ stout defence on Tuesday tells us there is no belief he did anything wrong.

The clumsy nature of the point Rodgers was presumably trying to make on Sunday summed up where he seems to be at, where nothing comes easily. It is a curious situation for a manager with such intelligence and experience. In proving his messaging is all over the place, Rodgers had previously declared he “couldn’t care less” about “what everybody else says or writes”. Fans who need little encouragement to howl at a world against Celtic have defended Rodgers who has, in turn, played to the gallery far more than he did during his first tenure. This is all theatre, detached from sporting reality.


As a club and a team, Celtic are unconvincing. Last week’s release of interim accounts, which showed a frankly preposterous £67 million (€78 million) in a bank account (this is a football club, not a Silicon Valley entity) came with directors shaking their heads at a grim January transfer window as if this was overseen by a third party. Celtic make the signing of ready-made first-team players amazingly complicated time and again. When key performers such as Kyogo Furuhashi, Callum McGregor and Matt O’Riley have suffered from inconsistent form, the storm is a perfect one.

Celtic’s supporter base fears losing the league whereas Rangers fans properly believe they can win it. Those in blue are so giddy it will be quite the scene if Clement does not see this championship through. Since the start of December, there have been Celtic losses to Kilmarnock and Hearts. Victory in the Old Firm clash at new year rightly triggered thoughts of better times but Rodgers’ team have since scraped past Ross County and Hibs. There was a draw against a hapless Aberdeen and further points dropped when Kilmarnock visited. Only the most optimistic in green and white believe Celtic can rattle off 11 wins in a row, which they may well require. In Rodgers’ defence, the Celtic team managed by Ange Postecoglou looked in decline long before the Australian set sail for Tottenham.

There are supporter chants to sack the board. Rodgers bemoaned a lack of “bravery” in that January window. He has even stated that the Celtic Park playing surface isn’t good enough. Rodgers may roll his eyes that form perfectly acceptable in other leagues is deemed poor in Scotland but he is managing a club in a different economic stratosphere from all but one of the opposition.

Celtic’s chief executive, the lesser-spotted Michael Nicholson, was never supposed to be in this role. Dominic McKay was coaxed from Scottish Rugby and lasted a matter of months. Nicholson has no profile or presence to adequately defend his club’s off-field operation. Rodgers therefore calls for quality recruitment, is handed precious little and the club finds itself under attack from its own customer base. A narrative, yes; but of Celtic’s own making.

If Rodgers wins this league, he can feel empowered. In a Scottish context, given the strength of Rangers and Celtic’s obvious shortcomings, this would be his finest achievement yet. Should Celtic fall short, Rodgers would also be in a strong position with his paymasters. In that scenario, Celtic would be in obvious need of a Postecoglou-style reboot over which Rodgers could command full control.

This, however, requires Rodgers to have an appetite for the job in hand. His demeanour suggests that may not exist. Picking arguments and citing negativity which has actually been created from failings within the club itself has little durability. — Guardian

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