“CCV is fine, Reo Hatate is back and available,” Brendan Rodgers

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers spoke to the media at Lennoxtown this afternoon ahead of Sunday’s Scottish Premiership match away to Livingston. Here’s everything that happened…

Q: Can we just start off with an injury update?

Celtic v Kilmarnock – cinch Premiership – Reo Hatate, Saturday October 7, 2023. Photo Jane Barlow

Brendan Rodgers: “Cameron Carter-Vickers is fine, Reo Hatate is back and available in the squad which is great news as he’s worked very hard. He’s played a bounce game in the time off and built up his fitness, so it’s great news that he’s back.

“Yang Hyun-jun has come back with a bit of tightness, so we need to just make sure that’s nothing more serious. He played two 60 minutes and one 30 minutes whilst he was away so he’s come back a little bit tight. We just have to check and make sure he’s okay.

“Luis Palma will just miss out on this weekend, but will hopefully be available soon. Callum McGregor has been out on the field, but we’re not risking him in this game. She should hopefully rejoin training next week.”

theRangers v Celtic – cinch Premiership – Ibrox. Callum McGregor celebrates the win after the cinch Premiership match on Sunday September 3, 2023. Photo Andrew Milligan

Q: So Callum has got a chance of playing next weekend then?

Brendan Rodgers: “Yes. A very good chance.”

Q: What’s your reaction to the news this morning that for the next campaign, there will be a 5 per cent allocation for away fans? What’s your reaction?

Brendan Rodgers: “It’s absolutely great news for everyone. It’s something that this club have championed for a number of years. It’s the iconic nature of the fixture because of the supporters. To be able to get two and a half thousand supporters into the stadium – hopefully over time that can up – to have them in is everything. That’s what the game is about, the game is about the players on the field and supporters in the stand, especially in this fixture. This is what makes it. It’s absolutely fantastic news, and not before time as well.”

Q: You said that hopefully, the number can increase. Is that the aim of the club that this is a starting point that can grow in the future?

Brendan Rodgers: “The aim at Celtic was never to change it. If we can get it back to what it was, before it was changed, then that would be great news for everyone.”

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Q: In terms of next week, you’re not going to have any supporters. Does it make a difference when you have those away fans, going to a hostile environment?

Brendan Rodgers: “You know we have a game on Sunday? I’m only interested in the game. We’ll talk about that next week.”

Q: In terms of this weekend then, the last time you visited Livingston it was 3-0. A tough game, with 10 men for a long time, what are you expecting this time?

Brendan Rodgers: “Likewise. We saw only a few weeks ago that we played Livingston and they gave us a tough game. We were very good going forward in the game, but gave up too much on the other side, so that’s something that we will need to be better in.

“Overall, I’m really happy with where we’re at after the international break, with getting players back and the squad looking strong. The players have been really good in training and we look to take that into the game. We know it’ll be a challenge for us as it always is at Livingston, but we played well there last time and we will look to do that again.”

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Q: Have you devised a plan to deal with the touchline ban as well?

Brendan Rodgers: “Yeah, of course, absolutely. I won’t be going golfing, that’s for sure! The ban, it’s disappointing to get banned for the first time in my career, but I respect the decision and we’ll find a way around it. We’ve prepared all week and in the next couple of days, we’ll be finalising that. The players going and I’ll have the seat in the stand and I’m sure I’ll be able to have communication from there.”

Q: You are taking a seat in the stands at Livingston. It will be a new experience for you. Is it something you have thought about at all in the last few weeks?

Brendan Rodgers: “No. Not overly thinking about it. It was only confirmed yesterday but I have always been a coach who has loved being pitch-side with the players so if I need to make any quick changes I am there. I have also got big trust in my staff here as well. We will be in communication and the players will go into the game knowing exactly what it is that they have to do. We’ll have that communication with the bench.”

Q: Is it a relief it was a one-game ban? It may have been more challenging if it was the following week as well…

Brendan Rodgers: “No. Listen, it is what it is. I was disappointed with the one-game ban and one suspended but it was the SFA and it was all done very professionally. I have a huge thanks to the club because Celtic gave me unwavering support in the defence of the breach. We accept it and we move on from it.”

Q: The club statement said that you hope to improve standards concerning VAR. Motherwell manager Stewart Kettlewell also hopes that there will be serious talks between clubs, managers and match officials to help iron out issues with VAR and the handball rule and the interpretation of the handball rule. Is that something you would be in favour of maybe getting around the table at the end of the season or before the start of next season?

Brendan Rodgers: “Yes. I think there’s a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of my comments after the Hearts game because that’s all I have ever looked to do both times I have been up here. I wanted to increase the standard whether that is with VAR or whether it was on the quality of pitches so the standard of the game is better.

“That is always something that has to be driven. VAR is one of those operations that we want to see improve. It has only been up here a short period of time but we want to develop it and improve it. The standards of what we try to create in the league have always been at the forefront of my mind.”

Q: You have got players coming back from injury and the next game is on a plastic pitch. How much is that going to play a part in your team selection? Are there players who may play more or less based on that?

Brendan Rodgers: “You have to consider it. We have to think about Callum (McGregor) along that route. There is no doubt it comes into your thinking, especially on the back of an international break where players have been travelling. We are hopeful in the future that we will have quality grass pitches here and supporters can see the best possible game that they can.

“At this moment in time, we play on the plastic pitch and we have to deal with that. Of course, that means we have to deal with team selection and the welfare of the player and from Callum’s perspective it is too much of a risk for us.”

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Q: At times this season the team has struggled to go on consistent winning runs and only a couple of times in the campaign have Celtic won three games in a row. What do you think needs to change until the end of the season to make sure the team can get over the line?

Brendan Rodgers: “I think from an attacking perspective when we look at all the metrics around that the attacking side of the game has been okay. Probably, the only thing might be efficient and completing opportunities. Where we haven’t been the same is on the defensive side and I think that is what ultimately allows you to go on consistent runs.

“If you look at the runs we have gone on that has coincided with both sides of our game being very good where we have been offensively very strong but also closed up the back door and not given too much away. That will be key for us and having that defensive mentality not to give too much away but at the same time in attack creating that efficiency hopefully that will give us that consistency through until the end of the season.”

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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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