Brendan Rodgers on the false narrative that ignores Celtic’s eight wins and a draw

Here’s what Brendan Rodgers had to say to the broadcast media yesterday afternoon at Lennoxtown at his pre-match media conference where the main talking points were the difficult situation the club and the player are in regarding Liel Abada’s position at Celtic – and it has to be noted that the Celtic manager is handling this magnificently – and the title race which Brendan Rodgers pointed out to the hacks that they’ve created a false narrative on the way Celtic’s form is being reported, ignoring the inconvenient truth that in his side’s last nine games they have won eight and drawn one and that’s form that no team in the country can match, including theRangers

Here’s what was said at Lennoxtown yesterday afternoon…

Q: How is your squad for the weekend and how is Alistair Johnston now you have had more time to assess and look at his injury?

Brendan Rodgers: “He is still not available. We are hoping that he might be involved in the next week to ten days. We are assessing that as we go along but he is doing work out on the pitch. He is keeping up his fitness. We just have to be mindful of the contact. Greg Taylor is back and he trained all week. He comes back into the squad. Cameron Carter-Vickers will rejoin the squad next week. We are getting there.”

Q: Is Alistair one that when he does return he could be wearing a mask or sporting some sort of protection or permission to play?

Brendan Rodgers: “I don’t know. He doesn’t need it but again we will assess that and his level of confidence out on the field. Both we and he haven’t decided yet. It is just about seeing how he goes over the course of the next week, more importantly.”

Q: It is tight at the top of the table. From your experience what do you think will be the deciding factor in who finished top come the end of the season?

Brendan Rodgers: “There are still a lot of games to go. I think it is great for the league. You never go into any league or any league title and think it is going to be a procession. It is hard work and hard graft. Over 38 games the best team will always win the league. For us, it is all about ourselves and our own attitude and mindset. In that aspect, it is very, very good. We just have to focus on each of our games and worry about ourselves. Let’s see where that takes us.”

Q: When there was a management change across the city the lead was seven points. Is there any part of you that thinks we had it in our control and let it slip a little?

Brendan Rodgers: “No, not really. I have seen that lots of times but the actual reality is the most we would have ever been in front would have been five points. If you take away the two games. We were never seven points clear. There were still two games that they had to play and they have now played them. We have dropped five points but I’m not kicking myself. It is what happens throughout the season. I think our response from the two games where we conceded early in December has been absolutely brilliant. Probably in any other country eight wins out of nine is a very good return. I have been here in Scotland and I know that eight wins out of nine is a disaster when you are top of the league. I just focus on what we need to do.”

Q: You spoke last weekend about a narrative being built around the club, outwith the club, what narrative do you think has been built up? What do you think is the perception of Celtic this season?

Brendan Rodgers: “To be fair, I don’t care. My focus is with the team. I understand and I get the feeling that you have to create that. I understand this city in that the two teams cannot be doing well. When I was at Liverpool, both Everton and Liverpool could be doing well at the same time. That can’t happen here. One has to be pushed down. For us, it is us because we are at the top. We slipped up in early December but that narrative has continued right the way through even though the players have won eight games out of nine. They have won some tough games and drawn one game. I can’t control that. What I can control is the mindset of the team, the attitude of the team and knowing that over this next period of games, we will be really focused and really aggressive and attack the game. What everyone else says or writes, I couldn’t care less.”

Q: Has it lit a fire in you a little bit?

Brendan Rodgers: “No, not at all. I don’t need what you guys say to spike me up.”

Q: Liel Abada you said last weekend wasn’t in the right frame of mind. Have you had discussions with him since and is he ready to be involved again?

Brendan Rodgers: “Yes. It is still the same situation. I’ve had lots of conversations with Liel. I’m really empathetic towards the issue that he has. It is more than football, it’s real on a human level. I have to respect that. He’s training and he’s working away. This period is all about the mind and if you are not quite right or ready then first I can’t take any risk with him as a player as we will always support him. I also have to protect the squad as well.”

Q: Is that an ongoing thing?

Brendan Rodgers: “Yes, it is ongoing. We will just assess it this weekend and see where it is at.”

Q: How tough is that to deal with as you say it is a lot more than football and he is a young man. How much responsibility do you take in his care?

Brendan Rodgers: “I take a great responsibility. That’s why we are here. My job is not just a football manager. It is to look after players. This is a young guy who is 22 years of age, far, far away from home. People can talk about what is going on there and then they can forget about it. This is the reality for him, it is his life. Every single day, every night, families in a war. It is a really, really tough situation for him. On a human level, I have real empathy for him. It is my job and we will do that like I have done with many players before and take the human aspect and look after him and whenever he is ready, if he is ever ready then he will be able to give us everything.”

Celtic v Buckie Thistle – Liel Abada in action during the Scottish Cup match at Celtic Park on Sunday January 21, 2024. Photo Andrew Milligan

Q: You know the city well. At times there feels like there’s nothing more important than football, but this is one of these circumstances where it shows there is.

Brendan Rodgers: “Family is more important than football. That’s ultimately where it’s at. This is family, and this is life. This is an incredible profession and it’s a great job but it’s not more important than life.”

Q: Have you had to deal with anything like this before? Is this a new one?

Brendan Rodgers: “Add it to the list! There are many situations that I’ve had to deal with as a manager over time and in lots of them you don’t have to get on the coaching courses, but this is where experience and being empathetic to the situation. You have to understand and sit in his shoes as a very young guy. He’s done great for this club and it’s the sadness of it where he resigned for us because he had that great belief that he could go on and develop. Then he had a period out injured, which was a shame and then now having come back he’s found it a real challenge. I’m here for him to support him and everything else is secondary to that.”

Q: Could it be the situation that he might have to look elsewhere – even for a loan?

Brendan Rodgers: “It’s a possibility, but we’ll see. We’ll work together on that.”

Here’s Brendan Rodgers’ media conference ahead of the match against Kilmarnock at Celtic Park this afternoon…

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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