Andy Cole: Brendan Rodgers Celtic return not a surprise

Many were surprised, even shocked when news emerged of Brendan Rodgers being the number one choice to replace Ange Postecoglou as manager of Celtic FC this summer. After the Scottish Cup Final, Postecoglou was coy when questioned about his immediate future and from there on in, the writing was on the wall.

Ange Postecoglou, Manager of Celtic lifts the Scottish Cup trophy after the team’s victory during the Scottish Cup Final between Celtic and Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Hampden Park on June 03, 2023 (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Departing shortly after securing an historic eighth Treble for the club, Rodgers shot straight to the top of the bookies’ list as favourite to take over from the highly successful Greek-Aussie. It had been said he needed some convincing but that Dermot Desmond and the Celtic Board were determined to make him and offer he couldn’t refuse.

After meeting up with Michael Nicholson and Chris McKay out in Spain, talks intensified throughout June and he eventually came to sign on the dotted line after assurances re: transfer budgets and recruitment policy etc. The rest they say, is history now as the Irishman has been settling into life once again as boss of Scottish football’s oldest and most successful club.

Brendan Rodgers. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

One man who isn’t in the least bit surprised Rodgers decided to opt for another spell at Celtic Park is Manchester United Treble winner, Andy Cole. The former Premier League and Champions League winner admitted the Hoops have snared a top coach but that the feeling will be very much mutual. As reported by Daily Record, he said: “It wasn’t a surprise for me to see Brendan go back to take charge of Celtic again but I’m not going to lie, I was surprised that Leicester City sacked him. That was a real shock.

“It just made sense to me that he opted to go back to Glasgow as the lure of returning to a club that holds so much of a connection for him was too great to turn down. A massive club that have a full house at home every time they play? Why wouldn’t he want to get back to that? You can talk about the standard of Scottish football and all of that stuff which people go on about but that doesn’t bother me. What we are talking about is the size of Celtic, a massive football club.”

13,000 Celtic fans gathered at the stadium to welcome Brendan Rodgers in May 2016…

He said: “All of that rich history and tradition and every other weekend they play in front of a full house. What Celtic have is a top, top manager with a point to prove and again it puzzles me why Leicester got rid of him last season. Brendan may have surprised some people by returning to Celtic but when you are lucky enough to get that opportunity again, why would you turn that down? He was brilliant for the club the first time around and a lot will be expected now but he’ll relish the challenges.”

The man who also played for Newcastle United in England reckons the acid test for Rodgers on his return to Scotland will be what he can do in European competition with the Bhoys, as they seek to make an impact against teams with far superior budgets. He said: “The biggest test will be in Europe and I look at Celtic when they are playing in Europe and appreciate it will always be difficult for them on that stage. If you look at how much money some European clubs are spending then it’s so difficult to realistically compete. For Celtic to play in the Champions League every season is in itself absolutely huge.

“Bridging that gap is tough. I’m not going to pretend it’s not a huge task to compete with the bigger clubs. It’s so hard for Celtic but you look at a club like Manchester United and it’s all about trying to bring in better players to move your team forward. The biggest difficulty for Celtic is trying to entice top players to come to Scotland when many will have the opportunity to play in the Premier League. Brendan knows he can only bring in the type of quality that he can when you factor in the difficulties I’ve just mentioned.

Jota of Celtic celebrates after scoring during the UEFA Champions League group F match between RB Leipzig and Celtic FC at Red Bull Arena on October 05, 2022. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

“Celtic have just lost a very good player in Jota who has moved to Saudi Arabia. The job now is accepting they’ve lost him and trying to see how they can replace him. It’s always going to be difficult as the majority of players these days do want to play in England. A manager like Rodgers is capable of changing a few minds and hopefully he’ll be able to bring in some top players. The gap between the Premiership in Scotland and the Premier League is huge and that is down to finance.

“If you look at some of the guys who are currently playing for Celtic, you ask yourself the question as to whether they’d be playing at one of the big four in England? The answer is ‘no they wouldn’t be’. So of course there’s a big gap but what Celtic do is they buy well and that individual progresses. You see that progression wherever they move to next.”

Cole is a fan of the Parkhead club and has fond memories of playing in a wonderful atmosphere during a UEFA Cup match for Blackburn Rovers during our run to Seville in the 2002/03 season. He said: “I have nothing but fond memories of playing in Scotland. My only game there of any magnitude was at Celtic Park for Blackburn in that UEFA Cup tie. Sir Alex Ferguson took us all up to Aberdeen for a friendly and I played in a testimonial at Celtic Park as well.

Celtic manager Martin O’Neill is mobbed by supporters at the end of the Scottish Premier League match between Kilmarnock and Celtic at Rugby Park on April 18, 2004. Celtic won the game 1-0 to secure the Scottish Premier League Title. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

“But the atmosphere that night in Glasgow against Martin O’Neill’s side was absolutely electric and I still remember just how much I enjoyed it. Playing at Celtic Park was something that I always wanted to do. I’m glad I managed to do that and it was absolutely brilliant. That Celtic side was impressive. They had some top-quality players so I wasn’t surprised at how good they were.

SEASON 1983/1984 CELTIC Celtic manager Davie Hay presents the “Shoot” trophy to his midfield player Paul McStay.

“I do like Celtic. I’m a fan and always have been. It started with Danny McGrain who I loved as a full-back then it was Paul McStay who I loved as well. Celtic just kind of stuck with me, maybe it’s also the strip which I’ve always liked. I promise myself every year that I’m going to come up to watch an Old Firm game as I’d love that but as yet it hasn’t happened. Everyone keeps telling me about the atmosphere when Celtic play Rangers so that’s on my bucket list.”

Paul Gillespie

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About Author

I'm a Garngad Bhoy through and through. My first ever Celtic game was a friendly against Italian side Parma at Celtic Park, in 2002. Currently a student of English Literature and Education at the University of Strathclyde for my sins. Favourite game would be a toss up between beating Manchester United with that Naka freekick, or the game against the Oldco when Hesselink scored in the dying seconds. I'm still convinced Cal Mac is wasted playing that far back.

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