Brendan Rodgers certainly talked a good game yesterday afternoon and there seemed to be a steely determination about the Celtic manager as he addressed head-on the failing of the club in European football and a new found determination to do something about it ahead of next season.
There is a sense that the Celtic support has had enough now and it’s up to the club to do something about this. Achieving Champions League qualification to the group stages by way of winning the Scottish Premiership is unlikely to continue beyond next season and Celtic’s desperately poor record in the Champions League is a factor in that.
Rodgers yesterday brought Celtic’s major shareholder and powerbroker Dermot Desmond into the conversation by stating the Irish billionaire is fully on board with what looks like a major change in strategy by the club. It should be noted though that Ange Postecoglou was talking in a broadly similar fashion eleven months ago after Celtic’s winless campaign ended in a 5-1 hammering against Real Madrid.
Imagine this time around being even worse than that?
“There’s no doubt experience is important. You cannot just have a team of really young players. You’re never going to extract that potential out of them unless you have experience beside them,” Rodgers said, as reported by Scottish Sun.
“We have young talents here that will develop and grow and that’s the model of the club. But to continue to improve and grow, you need to also have players who are established because they help bring those players up.
“And I am very, very confident that we can do that over the coming transfer windows,” Brendan said.
“Also, for the level of games you play, if you solely rely on young players for game after game after game, then they don’t have it in their legs. You’ll find they will break down. Every club will always look to bring in young, talented players and that can be a good business model. You progress them and then fly and the club gets the money. But every player can’t be that.”
Rodgers gave examples of what experienced players can bring to his Celtic side, drawing on current examples and also players who were in his side the first time around at the club.
“It’s balance because I enjoy working with young players and seeing them grow and develop. But equally, I love working with senior players who can help bring them through. They bring those habits and behaviours off the pitch.
“I see what Joe Hart brings to our squad. His commitment and enthusiasm passes on to the younger players. Being here the first time, Scott Brown was a massive influence on Callum McGregor. Kolo Toure was a great role model for Dedryck Boyata and the other centre-halves here in helping them get through games. Scott Sinclair was a proven player when I signed him and I knew what I was going to get with him. He was going to bring speed and goals to the team. You can’t dismiss that.
“You definitely need that experience in games. We’ve had one window in which a number of players were over the line to come in. But hopefully in the coming windows we can get the squad to a balanced level where it’s a mixture of experience and youth, but always with quality.
“Listen, you can be 23 or 24 and experienced. It doesn’t always have to be an older player,” the Celtic manager noted.
Rodgers also bemoaned the loss of experience and quality from the squad from last season with Aaron Mooy retiring and Carl Starfelt and Jota getting their moves to Spain and Saudi Arabia.
“I felt when I came in here in the summer, with the squad already in place, that we probably needed four players. By that, I meant four quality players to add to the squad.
“Now, how the game works, you lose players. We lost real quality players in the summer, so that’s something in the coming windows we’ll look to improve on. The squad will come down in numbers and we need to add quality, there’s no dressing it up.
“It doesn’t necessarily all have to be in January because the right players might not be available. It might be the summer. But certainly over my time here we want to improve the depth and the quality. If in January we can do that, then I’m pretty sure the club will give us every chance to improve the team.”
Rodgers also addressed the demands from the Celtic support for progress on the European front while crucially explaining that Dermot Desmond is fully behind his now well stated plans to add real quality and experience to the current squad, while at the same time reducing the squad size, over the next two transfer windows.
Without Desmond’s sign-off this would be talk and not much more, and it’s unlikely that the Celtic manager would have said what he has about the Irish powerbroker had he not had the assurances from the top of the club.
However the Celtic support would like to hear of from the horse’s mouth. Maybe Dermot Desmond should do one of his infrequent interviews with Celtic TV or alternatively the club’s CEO Michael Nicholson, who other than at the AGM, has nothing publicly to say to his customers (ie the Celtic support) should put the change of strategy and the focus on building a team fit for Champions League purpose on record.
“The supporters have every right to demand the highest level. That’s what we demand here also.
The club has been so well run for so many years and, from a domestic perspective, that’s been highlighted in what the club has achieved.
“I think the next step is the European side and that’s why I came back, to hopefully be able to fulfil that in my time here. The club are clear on that and where we want to get to in terms of our level. Dermot (Desmond) is keen for us to progress. He was one of the big reasons why I came back. My relationship with him is very strong from the first time I was here. He was the main influence in convincing me to come back.
“My communication with Dermot is very good. We speak on the phone, he was in Rome for the game and I saw him at the Pope’s Blessing. I didn’t have too much interaction out there with him, but it was great for Dermot to be there, along with his son Ross.”
On You Tube you can see the number of views each video has achieved. For a Celtic media conference with the manager you would expect that to be well over 20k views, Ange would often reach 25-30k during his time. Over the past few weeks that has dropped to around 15k for Brendan’s recent media conferences. Yesterday’s got just 10k.
As Brendan said yesterday, “the supporters have every right to demand the highest level,” but he didn’t add that we are continually putting our hand I our pockets to back the club and expect that money to be re-invested in the team.
Action speaks louder than words. There is no going back now.