“We expect it to be intense right from the kick-off,” Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers spoke to the broadcast and Celtic fan media at Lennoxtown yesterday afternoon before sitting down with the printed media. Straight off the back of the eventful afternoon up at Perth, the Celtic manager quickly turned his attention to tomorrow night’s Scottish Premiership match against Hibs at Celtic Park.

And Brendan also provided plenty of additional snippets including various injury updates. Here’s what was said in one of his mist interesting media conferences since the season started…

Q: You said you were the angriest you have ever been in football at half-time. Was the discussion you had at half-time part of a wider thing that you felt you needed to have with the players?

Brendan Rodgers: “No. The problem is if you speak to them at half-time and you don’t get the reaction. So, that’s when it is a big problem. These guys have been brilliant. Every now and then you just need a reminder that Celtic is a club where you don’t go through the motions either as a staff member or a player. We went through the motions in the first half.

“For whatever reason that was we needed to be better and we were much more intense in the second half and much more aggressive in our game with and without the ball. You saw the quality of our goals and our play. That’s it. We move on to the next game.”

Q: Will you be expecting a quick start on Wednesday night then?

Brendan Rodgers: “Very quick.”

Q: What are you expecting against Hibs?

Brendan Rodgers: “Well, it was a good football game the last time we played. I said after the last time I was complimentary of what Nick (Montgomery) was trying to do. We’ll expect a good football game. First, the onus is on ourselves as we are at home. We don’t want to waste any time in the game like we did yesterday and like we did in the first 60 minutes of the game at Easter Road. We wasted valuable time in creating opportunities and playing the level of football that we wanted to. We expect it to be intense right from the kick-off.”

Q: Do Hibs offer a different kind of approach from other teams?

Brendan Rodgers: “They obviously want to build the game from the back. Listen, there is no right or wrong way to play the game but I always admire teams that are coached to play because it is much more difficult in order to do that. You can see what Nick has done since he has come in and he wants his team to play through the thirds of the pitch. He wants them to be creative and they have some very good players.”


Q: You mentioned the impact you got off the bench from the substitutes yesterday, is that encouraging given this run of fixtures that are coming up? Is that what you are looking for every time?

Brendan Rodgers: “I think you need that. All the guys coming into the game affected it. The modern game is not just about the 11 players that start. Sometimes you make a few changes but also you rely on players coming in. Guys like Mikey coming into the game yesterday were outstanding.

“He was really direct, fast and creative and worked hard. Jamesy gets his goal and Tomoki comes in and creates the third goal but that’s a testament to how they train. The intensity of our training every day allows them to be at a good level so that when they come into the game they can make an impact.

Q: The next challenge for Mikey and Tomoki is to start games. Do you feel that they are ready for that?

Brendan Rodgers: “Yes, they will have the opportunity to do that.”

Q: Can I ask about Luis Palma who was carrying a knock when he left the field?

Brendan Rodgers: “It looked like his hamstring but it wasn’t. He just had a bit of cramp that set in so thankfully he is okay.

Q: In terms of the St Johnstone game are you confident that there won’t be another drop-off like that?

Brendan Rodgers: “That’s the plan. Listen, it is something that can happen and you see it even with the very best teams. It happens when you play in so many games and there can be moments when there is a lull. That’s why you are a manager and a coach because you recognise that and you need to have the intervention. We are playing a lot of games at a high tempo and that’s when we are at our best, so you always have to search for that identity and we got it in the second half, which was outstanding.”

Q: Can I just ask about Marco Tilio? He was on the bench against Motherwell but not in the squad yesterday, how is he?

Brendan Rodgers: “He’s okay. He is training away. I think because we had some injuries he got himself onto the bench but other players have come back and he found himself outside of that again.”

Q: We have seen Kyogo and Oh who have come off the bench a couple of times and Kyogo has dropped deeper. What is the thinking behind that and would you consider playing both up front together?

Brendan Rodgers: “I can do. That’s how the game evolved. I think it’s in respect of how the game sits. We normally play with a single striker and two wingers. Oh has come into the game and done very well. He has just given us a different dimension in the game. I have been really pleased with the contribution Oh has made. I am not averse to playing the two together if that’s what the game needs.”

Q: You mentioned that you can’t have players going through the motions at Celtic. Is that different from off days as that wasn’t just the players having an off day, was it? It was an accumulation, wasn’t it?

Brendan Rodgers: “We started the game okay. You saw us get in behind in the first minute or so and getting an effort on goal but then we just didn’t follow that through and the quality of our play was a bit loose. They didn’t penetrate. For me, it is very, very straightforward in football and what you gain is experience. If you take away all the technical jargon of football, the difference in the game is about working hard. That’s the difference and when you are a top team it is about working very hard. We failed to do that in the first half against St Johnstone yesterday.

“When you don’t do that you can get punished by any team and we had already seen that with St Johnstone as the first time we played them, we ended up with a point. So, you always have to guard against that, no matter how good a team you are. The starting point for any team is your work. Once you put the work in and you play to the intensity and the speed which you are asked to play then you see the difference in them. It’s just about the mentality and working hard and that is normally the difference.”

Q: Do you think twice when you are going to say something as stern as that? Do you know how strong you are going to go or do you just think I’ve got something to say and I’m going to go for it?

Brendan Rodgers: “There was nothing tactical needed in the game yesterday. You analyse the game and you normally have the players playing to the intensity levels that you want and then you are looking at little tactical tweaks that you may need within the game. There was nothing tactical yesterday, this was about mentality and physicality. Once you do that and you bring that to the game then you get your rewards.”

Q: Can I ask you one question about the Euros and the draw for Scotland? How optimistic can Scotland be in that group?

Brendan Rodgers: “It’s a brilliant draw, isn’t it? The team and Steve (Clarke) have done brilliantly. That’s two qualification campaigns now and so to get that opening game in Munich is really exciting for the players, the staff and for the nation. They could be in with a great opportunity to qualify out of a group stage which would be absolutely brilliant. They’ve got some fantastic players and a generation of players that are coming through. So, hopefully, they can do very well. It is really exciting for the nation. There is a long way to go before it but to have that opening game in Munich is really exciting for everybody.

Q: There are a couple of players who could be there representing Celtic as well as Matt (O’Riley) with Denmark, so that is good for the club isn’t it?

Brendan Rodgers: “It would be great. For players to gain those experiences of playing in a major competition can only enhance them as a player.

20th August 2023; Rugby Park, Kilmarnock, Scotland: Scottish Viaplay Cup Football, Kilmarnock versus Celtic; Liam Scales of Celtic, Gustaf Lagerbielke of Celtic and Maik Nawrocki of Celtic

Q: For guys like Marco Tilio, Gustaf Lagerbielke and Maik Nawrocki who have not featured in matchday squads of late. What is the challenge that you set to them on a day-to-day basis that can maybe help them get into matchday squads?

Brendan Rodgers: “I think it is always personality. I think with the young players coming in there are players ahead of them but what always catches my attention is training. I am out there every day watching training and when I see players train and work with that personality then they will always edge their way closer to my thinking. I have said before our squad is quite big and there are players who have been ahead of them. Unfortunately for the likes of Maik and Gustaf, Liam (Scales) has come into the team and really took his opportunity.

16th September 2023 Celtic Park, Celtic versus Dundee Amadou Bakayoko of Dundee takes on Nat Phillips of Celtic Photo ActionPlus David Young

“We’ve got Nat Phillips who has been brilliant since he has been here and has been a real positive influence and it is the one area of the team you don’t really want to change too much, especially when both players are fit as it is all about the two players playing. For any player, it is all about what they do in training as that is all you can do. You can’t get too disappointed. If you are working hard then hopefully those opportunities will come for you.”

Q: Is the hope for Maik and Gustaf the fees paid in the summer and the longer term contracts as well that you’ll see that development from them over the coming months that will get them to the point where you want them to be?

Brendan Rodgers: “Yeah, I think it’s just time, isn’t it? It’s also taking the opportunities when the opportunities come.”

Celtic v St. Johnstone –  Liel Abada during the cinch Premiership match at Celtic Park, Saturday August 26, 2023. Photo Steve Welsh

Q: Can I ask about Liel Abada, I know he’s due back in December. How close is he now?

Brendan Rodgers: “Liel and Daizen (Maeda) are both on the pitch, which is great news for us. Daizen is probably a little bit ahead of Liel but I’m expecting at some point this month that they’ll be available.”

Q: Do you think those guys coming back could potentially push the likes of Mikey Johnston and James Forrest to try and keep their place in the team?

Brendan Rodgers: “Competition is sometimes the best coach you can have in the game. That’s something that you always want. The players coming back have been important players for Celtic and they’ve been important for me, especially Daizen because he’s played a lot more. That competition is important but also having that self-drive, you need to have that. You can’t transfer that.

“You can create a great environment and culture and you can have fantastic facilities and great coaching every day. What you can’t transport is willpower, so that willpower and drive to improve and develop has to be within, and over my career, I’ve seen many players have that self-drive that allows them to stay at it. Then when opportunities come, they can take them.”

 Feyenoord v Celtic, Daizen Maeda, Photo Bart Stoutjesdijk/Shutterstock

Q: With Liel and Daizen, are they training themselves or are they with a pool of players?

Brendan Rodgers: “They’re back out on the field with the medical team and rehab team. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before they’ll be back in with the squad again.”

Q: Do you think they could be available for selection ahead of the Rangers game?

Brendan Rodgers: “I’m not thinking of that to be honest, just thinking about Hibs, really.”

Reo Hatate of Celtic FC during the UEFA Champions League match between Feyenoord and Celtic FC at Feyenoord Stadium de Kuip on September 19, 2023 Photo  ANP Hollandse Hoogte JEROEN PUTMANS

Q: And Reo?

Brendan Rodgers:“He’s starting to move. We allowed Reo to go back to Japan and get some work there because he was in the really early stages, but he’s worked very hard there and he’ll return later on in the week and we’ll assess him when he comes back.

Q: You mentioned the squad size, and that you wanted to cut the 32 and add more quality in. Have you had those conversations?

Brendan Rodgers: “Not as of yet, no.”

READ THIS…50th Anniversary of Harry Hood’s sensational hat-trick against Rangers

Harry’s great friend and former Celtic teammate Tommy Callaghan with biographer Matt Corr signing copies of Harry Hood – Twice as Good

Order a copy of Harry Hood – Twice as Good today from Celtic Star Books. We’ll guarantee speedy delivery and if you add a personal Christmas message to the notes section MATT CORR will be happy to sign the book and also handwrite your dedication, making it an ideal Christmas gift for a Celtic supporter who perhaps 50 years ago this evening was a Hampden watching Harry Hood skelp the old Rangers!

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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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