Celtic’s 19th Manager (2016-19, 23-?) – Brendan Rodgers, the prodigal son

Even after yesterday Brendan Rodgers is still an enigma. An unprecedented run of domestic success, and slight improvement in Europe is the way we can sum up his two and three quarter years with the club first time around.

His first season was the “Invincible” one, and that was exactly what Celtic were that season with the way that they won the Scottish Cup in 2017 over Aberdeen with thunder threatening “up there” with the best of the Cup finals. 2017/18 was not a lot worse, – in some ways it was even better – and 2018/19 was going the same way…when Brendan suddenly upped and left us for Leicester City.

It frankly defied belief, and if there is any “hidden agenda” story about his departure, we feel we should get to know it. In playing terms, the only possible reason might be something to do with the defeat to Valencia in Europe the previous week. Losing to Valencia is hardly a disgrace, but he may have decided that Celtic, for all their domination in Scotland, had reached their ceiling in Europe. But then again, he went to Leicester City in a country where he had already been a failure (at least in comparison with Celtic) and with all due respect to the good people of Leicester, they were not likely to do any better in Europe than Celtic were.

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

They had a far smaller fan base, and although they had won the English League in 2016, they were not likely to do it again any time soon. In the event, Brendan did win the English Cup in 2021 and also the Charity Shield … but then was sacked as the team plunged to relegation.

In any case, it is hard to believe that in 2019, Brendan was fed up of lifting trophies with Celtic. We have never tired of seeing green and white ribbons on silver trophies … and we never will. The team played some superb football in Brendan’s years – Scott Brown, Callum McGregor, Kieran Tierney, Scotty Sinclair, Moussa Dembele to mention just a few, (the)Rangers were repeatedly routed, and Brendan enjoyed the unalloyed love and affection of the Celtic faithful.

Best pals again – Peter Lawwell, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Nicholson (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

He had it in him to become an immortal in the mould of Maley or Stein – and he might have won a European trophy some day – but he chose to go. That banner 24 hours after his abrupt and bizarre departure at Tynecastle said “Never a Celt, Always a Fraud”. It hurt most of us to read that, but we would have felt better if he had given us an explanation. Why, Brendan, why?

Well that was partly answered yesterday at Celtic Park as Brendan Rodgers returned to the club. He told us that this time he would guarantee he will stay for the full three years of his contract, unless he sacked. He revealed that he has watched every Celtic game since he left. He tried to give some explanation as to why he did leave in the first place, but frankly that was never going to be possible, given that he has now returned.

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

He accepted that  his departure in 2019 upset and hurt the Celtic support and he promised to make amends come May next year. And he promised better progress in Europe while stating that he is now an even better manager that when he arrived in 2016.

Those at the Celtic fan media conference, I hear, where all very impressed by the manager and the crowd outside Celtic Park , while smaller than the last time, were enthusiastic and appreciative of the words that Brendan had to say.

Make no mistake yesterday was a big deal for Brendan Rodgers, his biggest hurdle in returning was always going to be winning the fans over, and if you look at the back pages in the papers this morning, you will see that their focus is on the Celtic supporters who haven’t forgiven him for his 2019 exit. There weren’t many of those at Celtic Park yesterday.

Here is the Celtic fan media conference from Celtic Park yesterday afternoon…

Welcome back Brendan.

David Potter



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About Author

I am Celtic author and historian and write for The Celtic Star. I live in Kirkcaldy and have followed Celtic all my life, having seen them first at Dundee in March 1958. I am a retired teacher and my other interests are cricket, drama and the poetry of Robert Burns.

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