“It made the supporters happy, which is what it’s about,” Brendan Rodgers

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers spoke to the media yesterday afternoon ahead of tomorrow’s match at Celtic Park against Dundee in the Scottish Premiership. Much of the latter part of the media conference centred on the treatment that is currently being dished out to the Manchester United and England defender Harry Maguire. As his former manager at Leicester, Rodgers had plenty to say on that subject but it’s hardly Celtic related so we’ll skip that.

Here’s the Celtic chat from yesterday’s media conference with Brendan Rodgers….

Liel Abada of Celtic scores to give Celtic a 0-1 lead. The goal was disallowed for offside but awarded by referee Kevin Clancy after a VAR check. Aberdeen v Celtic, Cinch Scottish Premiership – 13 Aug 2023 Photo Stuart Wallace/Shutterstock

Q: How is Liel Abada, Brendan? Word out of Israel is that he’s maybe picked up a problem in training whilst on international duty. How is he?

Brendan Rodgers: “Yeah, he’s gone to London today for a scan, but we think it’s going to be about three to four months. He picked it up at the end of training in a shooting exercise. It’s a real shame for us because he’s done well over pre-season and as you can see he started a lot of the games since I’ve been here. We’re really disappointed but it’s a squad game for us so we will have other players to come in.”

Q: What has he actually done?

Brendan Rodgers: “His thigh. It was shooting at the end of training and it looks like he’s done his thigh muscle.”

Q: It’s an area of the pitch where you’re pretty well stocked, but disappointing for the boy, given he looked like he would play a prominent role this year. He started three of the four games…

Celtic v St. Johnstone – cinch Premiership – Celtic Park St Johnstone s Graham Carey and Celtics Liel Abada left battle for the ball during the cinch Premiership match at Celtic Park. Saturday August 26, 2023. Photo Steve Welsh

Brendan Rodgers: “Yeah, and he signed a new deal and seemed happy. I was looking forward to continuing his development because there’s still lots of areas where he can improve on. It’s a shame and a learning for him, but he’ll work hard and hopefully, we’ll use him for the second part of the season.”

Q: Any other casualties after the break?

Brendan Rodgers: “No, not from international. Some of the guys have been out for a little bit longer term. Reo Hatate will be back, which is great news for us, he’s trained. Just with some of these guys now it’s just about when to put them in because some of them haven’t played for a period of time it’s about finding the right game and moment and the right amount of game time so that they’re not overloaded.

Celtic’s midfielder Reo Hatate during a friendly football match between Japan’s Gamba Osaka and  Celtic at Suita City Stadium in the city of Suita, Osaka prefecture on July 22, 2023. (Photo by PAUL MILLER/AFP via Getty Images)

“Great to have Reo Hatate back, and Marco Tilio has been back training but he’s missed all of preseason so we’re just waiting for the right moment for him. Cameron Carter-Vickers is doing very well, and hopefully on schedule to be back in the beginning of October. Maik Nawrocki is a little bit longer. Yuki Kobayashi is back training now as well, so it’s just starting to get players back now, which is good.”

Yuki Kobayashi arrives at the stadium prior to the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic FC and theRangers at Celtic Park on April 08, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Q: Can I just ask you about Maik, because obviously he was left out of the Champions League squad – perhaps understandable given the problem. What were you weighing up with the other selections – Alexandro Bernabei has not been included, so I’m presuming Liam Scales is your cover on that side. What was the decision-making process?

Brendan Rodgers: “It was exactly that. You’re looking at a number of things. You have eight association and home-trained players to be in the squad which leaves you 17, so you then having to strategically look at it on the players that are going to come in and cover. Then, you’re weighing up injuries as well and how long players are going to be out for. The likes of Maik will be out for a period of time, so those are the types of things that you’re looking at when you’re picking the squad.”

IMAGO / Shutterstock Photo by Kirk O Rourke/Shutterstock Liam Scales  clears from Dessers of theRangers during the Scottish Premiership match at Ibrox on 03 September 2023

Q: Have you ever known a period when you’ve had so much bad luck with injuries?

Brendan Rodgers: “Listen, it happens and it’s just unfortunate, but I’d rather have it now. I think that when we went into our game against (the)Rangers I think it was well documented about the players that were missing and everything else. The glue that keeps us together is our togetherness and personality and organisation. When we have that – whoever represents Celtic – will hopefully have those qualities, and that’s what we look for in our team. It’s just unfortunate. We just have to deal with it, and that’s the reason why you have to have a good squad.”

Q: That togetherness was obviously in full show at Ibrox for the win. What was that bounce like these last two weeks and what was the reaction from the players who stayed behind and worked in training? What did that result do for this place?

Brendan Rodgers: “I think there’s certain games that are for learning and games that offer you big moments as a squad. You think for a lot of players – they haven’t worked with me before – they don’t know me so well as such, even though we’ve been together a few months now.

“Sometimes it takes that big moment, I remember being here the first time and losing to Red Imps in the first game was a learning game. We were then able to go on and have a fantastic season.

“I said before that St Johnstone was a game that crystallised some of the issues that we needed to have and I just needed to get a bit more clarity with the way we were going to work and be clear on lots of things. Hopefully, we can now go forward, and we saw that in the game against (the)Rangers.

“The guys were so brave – any player at Ibrox is a tough place to go but as a Celtic player with the hostility and everything that surrounds the game. I thought our game plan was great on the day in terms of keeping the crowd quiet – especially early on – so we played our football in the first half.

“They allowed us to dominate the ball and have good chances in the game. Second half, like in any game against any team, especially away you have to show resilience and the players were absolutely superb in that aspect. Overall, a really galvanising performance for us, and it made the supporters happy, which is what it’s about.”

Q: Just looking at the weekend, you have a few selections to look at, like Luis Palma. Is he ready to go straight in? We spoke to Nat Phillips, who was eager to get going. Are they the selection headaches you’re looking forward to?

Brendan Rodgers: “Yeah, not so much headaches, just things to consider. Luis Palma won’t be back till tomorrow, so we have to have a wee look at that as there’s a long way to travel, but there’s lots of games for us that the players will be involved in. The players just have to make sure they’re ready and that’s the key.

“I think you’ve seen that with players so far, we’ve had players missing but we’ve won three games and drew one game. Two of those games have been away in really tough venues for us, so the players have shown that they are training well and they’re working hard and when they’re asked they know they need to be ready. That will be the case going forward.”

Q: The Champions League is almost upon us. Are you set for that?

Brendan Rodgers: “Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. It’s obviously an elite competition with the best teams in Europe, so it’s a great challenge, both from a player perspective and a coaching perspective. It’s always exciting.”

Q: What are you expecting from the six games?

Brendan Rodgers: “Our aim is to make sure we’re as competitive as we possibly can be. This game’s all about levels, and we’re going up a few notches in terms of levels. You’re competing against the best teams in Europe. That’s a challenge in itself. Things are that bit quicker and faster. Players are technically very strong and mentally strong and it’s a real test for you.

“That’s what you want, that’s why the players have worked so hard last season to win the league, as they know they can qualify straight into the competition. It’s the best competition to be in. No doubt that there will be challenges along the way and difficulties, but we’ll do everything we can to overcome them.”

IMAGO / Shutterstock Photo by Kirk O Rourke/Shutterstock – Liam Scales of Celtic during the Scottish Premiership match at Ibrox on 03 Sep 2023

Q: The way Liam Scales stepped up at Ibrox, does Liel Abada’s injury give a challenge to players in that position to step up the way Liam did in that position, and put in a performance to challenge you and your thoughts going forward?

Brendan Rodgers: “Yeah, we’ve got players coming into the squad that are new and it’s unfortunate when someone does miss out with an injury, but it provides the opportunity for someone else. Whoever and whenever that is, it’s an opportunity for the player to take, so without forcing it, it’s a great chance for them to come in and play and perform.”

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers at full time during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between the Rangers and Celtic FC at Ibrox on September 03, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Q: I know you said on one of your interviews on transfer deadline day that you maybe expected a few more players to be announced. That didn’t quite transpire in the hours after that. Were there deals that maybe didn’t get over the line that you expected to or were close?

Brendan Rodgers: “We’ll talk about that in January. We’ve spent enough time talking about that over the summer, so I don’t need to speak about that now.”

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

Q: We spoke to Callum McGregor and Liam Scales after the game at Ibrox, and they mentioned that they sensed – even from the players that were new – that they were beginning to understand what it meant and felt like to go to a big place and that could be the springboard. Did you feel that yourself in these two weeks that there is more of that understanding from those new players of just what it takes to play at a club like Celtic?

Brendan Rodgers: “It’s not until you’re here that you find out the level of expectation and mental fortitude that you need to play at a club like this. It’s not unique, because big clubs have that, but certainly up here, there’s an extra dimension to that.

Brendan Rodgers gives the team instructions during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between theRangers and Celtic at Ibrox on September 03, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“That expectation and pressure, you certainly understand that in your time here as a player. They know they’re at a club where the challenge is not just to win but to win in a style. That’s what symbolises the club over many years. That’s the beauty of having young players that are hungry and they want to prove a point and do it without any fear. I think that they understand that. They get a good induction when they come into the club from everyone in terms of what it entails to be a Celtic player. A lot of them do their homework before they join and they understand what’s required.”

Q: Thoughts on Dundee ahead of Saturday’s game?

Brendan Rodgers: “It is up to us to find the solutions to that (teams sitting in). Like I said, in the St Johnstone game, we could have scored four or five goals but didn’t. Their keeper had a great day and we just didn’t put away our chances. I expect Tony’s (Docherty’s) team to be organised. I have seen some of their games and they have been unfortunate in some of those not to get better results. It will be a tough game but that is what you expect. We have to focus on ourselves and do our work and hopefully, we can the three points.”

READ THIS…Exclusive Photos (Part 5) – Main Stand extension completed, Celtic legends train at Barrowfield

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

Comments are closed.