“We have to very quickly get the team synchronized again,” Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers spoke to the broadcast media after today’s AGM at Celtic Park as he kicked off the build-up to the return to club football after the final international break of 2023. The Celtic manager revealed that he’s still waiting on some players coming back with both Alistair Johnston (Canada) and Luis Palma (Honduras) not due back until Friday.

While he is prepared to wait and see how both are, even if they are fine fitness wise, the transatlantic flights will surely rule them out from a starting spot, with both maybe making the bench?

 Luis Palma of Celtic celebrates  during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Aberdeen at Celtic Park on November 12, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The Celtic manager assessed the season so far and is still rueing the failure to find the back of the next against St Johnstone at the end of August and Hibs at Easter Road, in matches that ended goalless and Rodgers believes his side should have won. The less said about the League Cup elimination at Kilmarnock the better. On the Champions League, Rodgers reckons that his side have been competitive in all games, excluding the second half in Madrid.

Here’ how Brendan’s media conference went today, without it seems, any fan media being present.

Brendan Rodgers ahead of the cinch Premiership match at Easter Road on October 28, 2023. Photo Jane Barlow

Q: How have you and the team spent the break? Has it been productive for you?

Brendan Rodgers: “Yes, there has been a bit of rest and recovery, there has been a bit of work. Some of the players played in the testimonial game up in Dundee in the first week. We have been preparing this week, we are just hoping and praying all our international players come back safe and well. We are really looking forward to getting started again.”

Q: It’s been a hectic schedule until now and there is another hectic schedule until the New Year. Do these breaks allow you to take stock in terms of where you are in regard to the season?

Brendan Rodgers: “Yes, they do. If you look there is virtually a third of the season gone so far and I have been really pleased. There are always going to be elements where we can be better and improve. That’s something that we focus on daily. Over the piece, I have been delighted with the attitude of the players, the mentality and some of the football that we have played. We have suffered with injuries to many important players, but the team and the squad have coped really well and produced some fantastic football.”

Q: You are just out of the club’s AGM and a lot of the fans feeling is balanced between domestic success and trying to take that next step in Europe. How do you look back on things with that predicament in mind?

Brendan Rodgers: “It is always going to be a challenge. You don’t come into any season, here at Celtic and it gets easier. The Champions League is the very highest level of European football and what you find at that level is the attacking, forward players are as good as you come across. So, that is always a challenge.

“I think if I look domestically, we clearly should have had 13 out of 13 wins. The two games we drew we could have won but we didn’t. We learned from them. From a Champions League perspective, I sense there is a narrative around the overall start, but I think the players have been fantastic. In the Champions League, if you take away that second-half performance against Atletico Madrid, the players have been very, very good.

IMAGO / ANP ROTTERDAM – Celtic coach Brendan Rodgers and Joe Hart look at a photo of Wim Jansen. Jansen has also been Celtic’s coach. Photo ANP OLAF KRAAK – VI ANP Sport

“The players have been excellent, and they’ve been getting better with each performance. They are very co-ordinated. You see the spirit in the team. In the Champions League, we have been really competitive even against Feyenoord with nine men. I understand where we are at, and it is a level where you need to have quality and experience. Experience comes from gaining experience. There is no doubt we want to be stronger going forward over the coming seasons here and that was one of the big drivers to come back.”

Q: With that in mind during this break did you get the chance to reassess or think more about what you want or need to do in January?

Brendan Rodgers: “No. We always know what we want. I think the plan when we sat down in the summer was we understood where we were at and of course, some players then move on that you maybe don’t expect to.

“We are also aware of the Asia Cup, so nothing surprises us. We know where we are at, it is just now about the availability. For me, it is now about getting players in who are going to improve us and be better than what we have. It is important that we have a lot of young players who we want to develop and grow but you also need players for the present and that is what we are looking at.”

Peter Lawwell, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Nicholson. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Q: Fans next door hear Chris McKay and Michael Nicholson discussing very healthy financial results for the year. They tend to get ahead of themselves in terms of what money Celtic have to spend and what not. How difficult is that balance for you in making sure the club as a whole is not over or under-spending in January?

Brendan Rodgers: “Listen, my job here is to develop the football team. I want the best football team on the field. It will always be within the conditions of the club. Every manager will be the same. You strive to get the best quality players in order to improve your performance level. So, hopefully, we will be able to do that.”

Q: How much importance do you put on the January transfer window in terms of looking ahead to the summer and the Champions League that follows next season in terms of bedding players in and getting players used to your systems and surroundings?

Brendan Rodgers: “It’s a difficult window. There’s always quality available but it’s whether it’s affordable for us is the challenge. In my previous jobs, I’ve done good business in January windows when they have been available. It’s something that’s been ongoing through the course of the last few months.

“We’re looking at the possibilities of the players that we might be able to bring in. I repeat that I don’t want to add to the squad as we’ve got a squad of 32, which we need to bring down, as well as being in quality players. I’m pretty comfortable that come the summer – over the course of these next few windows – the squad, both in terms of the numbers and the quality will look how I want it to.”

Celtic v St Mirren – Peter Lawwell and Michael Nicholson in the stands during the cinch Premiership match at Celtic Park, Wednesday November 1, 2023. Photo Andrew Milligan

Q: Do you expect a decent turnaround in January, with players coming in and out? There are a few mentions of the squad being too big, how big a level of turnover should fans be expecting come January?

Brendan Rodgers: “There are going to be naturally players that will want to go out and play, and players that will want to move on. We have to see if there are players that are better than what we have that are available to bring in. I can’t sit here and give you a number of what’s going out and in but there’s always movement.”

Q: You spoke about added quality in the AGM. What is the challenge in getting players of real quality to Scottish football?

Brendan Rodgers: “Everybody will put the quality down to the number that you pay but that’s not not necessarily the case. I think Virgil van Dijk was two million when he came in here, so that was good quality. It’s always the challenge because lots of players may want to play in a more competitive league or one of the renowned leagues but I think what Celtic offers here is really unique in terms of the opportunity to come and play for a fanatical fan base. To come and develop as a player and to become a winner. To live in a great city.

“There’s been many players and managers that whilst they’ve been here – and it’s sometimes only when you are here – that you get that sense of that. We always work hard but we won’t beg players to come. This is an incredible club to come and play for, and if you’re lucky enough to come here and work then you’ll get the sense of that. That’s something that’s ongoing.”

Brendan Rodgers, Manager of Celtic, shakes hands with Odin Thiago Holm of Celtic after the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between theRangers and Celtic FC at Ibrox on September 03, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Q: One of the comments on the floor was that you weren’t paying enough for players coming to Scotland.

Brendan Rodgers: “I think everyone thinks that if you pay £9-10 million then that guarantees you the quality and that’s not always the case. There are certain levels that if a player is there, then you want to do that, so that’s something that we look at.”

Q: Have you got players who are ready to come either in January or next summer?

Brendan Rodgers: “Listen it’s constant, we’ll tell you as soon as they are in the door, not before.”

Q: In terms of this weekend, how did your players come back from international duty?

Brendan Rodgers: “Yeah, well we are still waiting on some to come back, so Luis Palma and Ali Johnston won’t be back until Friday but the other guys have come back well, obviously, the guys that have played domestically and for Scotland, fine, and the others, yep, fine. So nothing injury-wise at this moment in time to report.”

Celtic v Atletico Madrid – UEFA Champions League –  Alvaro Morata and Alistair Johnston battle for the ball during the UEFA Champions League match at Celtic Park, Wednesday October 25, 2023. Photo Andrew Milligan

Q: What are your thoughts on Motherwell this season? Started well but they are struggling of late.

Brendan Rodgers: “Yeah, I just think it’s the league, there’s a number of teams in that position, we had a really good game against them, and Stuart (Kettlewell) is an excellent young coach who’s developing a style there. Like I said, I thought when I saw them play they were very well coached and they worked very hard, so for us, we will give them that respect.

“We come back after the international break, and we have to very quickly get the team synchronized again and start where we left off in our last home game, but we are prepared for a tough game but our focus is on working how we want to.”

Q: What does that Friday return do for Luis Palma, Alistair Johnston, ruled out over the weekend? Or just a wait-and-see?

Brendan Rodgers: “Just assess and see how they are.”

Q: Michael (Nicholson) was mentioning that there is the VAR meeting tomorrow, is that something that you get to attend, are you going to go along to that?

Brendan Rodgers: “We can do that, we have representatives from the club that will be there, unfortunately for us it is within our training schedule and timing so yeah they will represent the club there. I think it is a year where they will assess it and look at it, I’ve been seeing it for a few more years down south and, I will focus on the football.”

Q: Have there been any pointers that you wanted to relay to that meeting?

Brendan Rodgers: “I think it has been ongoing, we have good dialogue here at the club and the views get represented well by Michael and Chris that will go will be representative of what we think.”

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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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