Celtic manager, Brendan Rodgers is of the mindset that his team can be a welcome addition to this year’s UEFA Champions League group stages. The Irishman spoke before his side’s meeting with Feyenoord this evening and called on his players to go and write their own names into the Hoops’ history books just like those that have come before them.
The club have always enjoyed a tremendous standing in European football all the way back to the days of the Lisbon Lions and Jock Stein’s magnificent achievement of winning the European Cup. Not only were the Bhoys the first British team to do it, we were the first non-Latin side to hold aloft the prize of prizes in European footballing circles.
Tonight will be a difficult task to navigate, no question about it, but that shouldn’t mean we should shirk responsibility or hide in our shell. Instead, Rodgers has urged his men to stand up and be counted and play with a freedom, as opposed to fearing for the worst possible outcomes on their most recent journey on the continent. Rodgers said: “The historical element to this club and this game is amazing. That’s what the game is about.
“We create out own magic. We take the supporters on a journey that can hopefully give them memories for a lifetime. Back in 1970, the club were going for their second European Cup in the space of a few years. What an achievement that would have been. To then lose in extra time was probably a galling experience. But that is success. Integral to that success is failure. It’s a part of it. For us here, we are at the beginning of a journey that excites me. I know we’ll grow and get better, with a bit of experience and patience we’ll continue to improve and develop.”
The boss revealed he’s tried to instil a fearless mentality in the squad ahead of this one and urged them to showcase to the world what they’re all about.
He said: “I said to the players, everything is possible. Don’t think so much about consequences or what people might say about budgets or being a pot four team, all of that. I think we can surprise. I think we can come into this tournament and surprise. Of course the game is about levels but it doesn’t mean that you can’t surprise teams. That’s the mentality I want to give the players, so they can go and play with no fear. But we have to be clever with it.”
Rodgers own personal experience as a manager will definitely be called upon this time around, after spending time in the English Premier League with Leicester City and guiding them to a Europa Conference League semi-final recently. That and his big club gig at Liverpool will be crucial in helping this young and aspiring Celtic squad through a tricky Group E.
On his own experiences in the game to date and how this will help him guide this current group, he stated: “The years give you better experience and knowledge helps.The outlook for me is that we have to work very hard and be very smart in our play to achieve at this level because of what we are playing against.
“But we have to write our story here. There will be moments when we are going to have press really high and be aggressive and impose your style on the game. Defensively there are going to be times when you are defending in emergency mode. We saw that at Ibrox recently where everybody was against you and we had to be ready for that mentally. It’s a mental shift.
“But then you have to have that conviction to impose the way you play. And that’s what we aim to do. You look into each game and what the needs are for each game. Our ultimate feeling is that we want to qualify.”