Advertisement

Rodgers rejects Celtic board criticism as he provides Turnbull contract update

Brendan Rodgers <i>(Image: SNS Images)</i>
Brendan Rodgers (Image: SNS Images)

Brendan Rodgers is aware of the picture being painted of Celtic as a club mired in disenchantment and disaffection.

The board’s ongoing dispute with the Green Brigade, allied to their apparent reluctance to provide the manager with a squad capable of competing effectively in the Champions League – despite having millions sitting in the bank – have done little to dispel the notion that all is not well at Parkhead.

Throw in last weekend’s lacklustre draw at home to Motherwell and it is a surprise they are not marching down the Celtic Way in their droves demanding change and heads on a plate.

Rodgers gets and understands all of that. How can he not when some of the mounting frustration at a signing policy wed to recruiting development players with potential to the exclusion of all else has come from his own lips.

And yet, given the chance to pause and reflect on the bigger picture, Rodgers remains optimistic. Moulding this Celtic squad to his liking was never going to be achieved in just one transfer window and the Northern Irishman is content that the business set to be undertaken in January and then next summer will provide him with a far more balanced group that, he believes, will be in better shape to compete in the Champions League next season - should Celtic again get there.

“There’s a sense of a narrative around the club at the moment that isn’t healthy, with the supporters and that side of it,” he said. “But I can only see a really positive future for us. I was disappointed after the result in Rome [against Lazio], of course, so you mourn that for 24 hours but then you have to move on.

“Looking at my first six months here and at the team, I know we can improve a great deal and also knowing, having been here before, the rhythm of Celtic. Normally, there are a couple of years where players are really intense and then maybe they’re looking for a move.

“But when I look at this group here there’s still a lot of development in them. There are players who will become better but we can also improve the squad. If we can do that and remain consistent then we can have another bright number of years to look forward to.

“One of the reasons I came back was to see whether we could be better and end a cycle [in Europe] which has been going on for many years.

“We all want to be in the Champions League. It’s difficult when you’re there but we’d rather be in it, gaining experience and learning, plus there’s a financial implication for the club as well, which is great.

“But as a football guy, I don’t just want to be competitive. A lot of times this season we showed when it was 11 vs 11 that we were competitive but it’s also about achievement as well and that’s where we want to be.

READ MORE: Alistair Johnston insists Celtic continuity is key to future success

“In order to do that the squad would need to be stronger. That’s not beating about the bush: that’s the simplicity of it. It’s just about identifying the right sort of player who can improve us and the profile of players whom we want is pretty clear.”
There is a perception among the more hardened Celtic cynics that the board’s ambition stretches not to European respectability but being only marginally better than Rangers year on year.

Rodgers, though, felt any criticism of the directors was unfair.

“When I think of how this board has stabilised the club over many, many years then it’s very hard to knock what they’ve done here,” he added, ahead of this afternoon's league match against St Johnstone.

“There’s a high level of intellect on the board which has made the whole operation sustainable. Dermot [Desmond, majority shareholder] is someone who wakes up every morning thinking about Celtic and he goes to sleep every night thinking about Celtic as well. What the club has always tried to do is not to spend beyond their means.

“Of course, it’s always about the next level and that’s something which is a big decision for any club but if you want to improve at that level then what you have to do is invest. That’s something that Dermot and the guys who run the club know.”

Rodgers will take the Asian Cup into consideration – when a number of Celtic’s players will disappear for the best part of a month – when he looks at potential short-term loan signings for the second half of the season. But he is also relaxed about players going the other way. David Turnbull’s contract is set to expire in the summer, with the former Motherwell midfielder linked in recent days with a move to Italy. Rodgers, though, is stoic about the whole thing.

“If a player doesn’t want to sign then he doesn’t want to sign,” he shrugged. “I won’t lose sleep over it. There were talks back in the summer and I’m not sure how far they’ve gone but clearly they’ve not gone as well as David or maybe his representative have wanted.

“Either way, he’s at that stage of his contract where he can choose what he wants to do and decide whether his prospects are better elsewhere. But while he’s here and committed, working and running he’ll always be a valuable asset.

“As a younger coach, I probably took it [players rejecting deals] very personally – if a player didn’t want to stay I thought it was about me.

“Now I know that it’s about players having short careers. This is an amazing club to be at – we’ll improve you as a player, you’ll make good money and win titles but if they feel the need to move on then they go. It’s the modern game. You adapt, get on with it and find your way again.”