English clubs will target Brendan Rodgers even though the Celtic manager has signed a new four-year deal with the club, according to Scott Sinclair, who credits the Hoops boss with reviving his career after being marginalised at Manchester City and relegated with Aston Villa. Celtic secured a first title for Rogers when Sinclair scored a hat trick at Tynecastle a week ago and the Parkhead board moved swiftly to consolidate the Northern Irishman’s contractual position with an extension to 2021.
“The way he has got us playing he is going to be talked about going elsewhere and other teams coming in for him. That is no surprise at all but he loves the club,” said Sinclair.
“He supported them as a kid so he is always talking about that but he most enjoys developing players and getting their confidence raised again. It is great that the manager has secured his future.
“To be honest, I think it will attract a lot of other players - especially coming from down south. People will look up here, look at the style we play, how we win games. When you bump into people they always say how well we have been doing.”
Sinclair scored Celtic’s second goal in Saturday’s 3-1 home victory over Kilmarnock to take his tally for the season to 23 to stay on course for a personal best. “Every time I step onto the pitch I am trying to do as well as I can. I don't really have a target,” he said.
“I got 27 in my best season at Swansea and I finished off with a hat-trick in the play-off final. If I can reach that stage then great, but from my position to have 23 is not too bad.
“When you are in a tough time in your career you just have to dig deep. The easiest thing in football is falling off and the hardest thing is to get back on track. That is what it has come down to - going back into the gym and doing extra things on your own and one day get my rewards for working hard.
“It is all credit to the manager. When you haven't played for a couple of years it takes time to get your form back.
“When I was at Villa and we got relegated, it was a tough time butI don't look back. I keep looking forward and the result is the season we are having now.”
Celtic are two wins away from a clean sweep of the Scottish honours and eight games out from the potential feat of going through a domestic campaign on three fronts without losing. Only three teams – Inverness, Rangers and Partick Thistle – have taken league points from them, but for a few minutes on Saturday it seemed Kilmarnock might be added to the list, when Jordan Jones scored midway through the second half to equalise Stuart Armstrong’s opener.
However, Sinclair put Celtic ahead again in the 70th minute and a James Forrest header spelt the end of the challenge from Killie, who came off the field to learn that, even had they prevailed at Parkhead, they would have been denied a finish in the top half of the Scottish Premiership by Partick Thistle’s 1-0 home win against Motherwell.
“We’re devastated not to make top six,” said Jones. “We can’t beat ourselves up about it. We’ve been doing really well and the lads have a lot of belief, so we can’t allow this result to knock our confidence.
“We’re not stupid. We know we were massive underdogs, so we’ve lost and it’s brushed under the carpet. It’s about Hearts on Friday now and we’re full of confidence that we can take three points, no doubt about it.”
Celtic’s next fixture sees them travel to Dingwall to meet Ross County on Easter Sunday, after which they have a double header against Rangers, first in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park on April 23 and the final Old Firm league derby of the season at Ibrox six days later.
Rangers boosted their confidence with a significant victory over second-placed Aberdeen at Pittodrie, where Kenny Miller scored a double and Joe Dodoo netted another, all inside four minutes, to secure a 3-0 win. In only his fourth game in charge, Pedro Caixinha thus achieved a distinction – prevailing away to a direct rival – which had eluded his predecessor, Mark Warburton, in consecutive seasons in the Scottish Championship and Premiership.
“That was a really crucial match for us because we were facing a very strong side,” said Caixinha. “Everyone was committed and they knew what they had to do.
“The players did great, fantastic. I'm very happy and this win will give us a lot of confidence."