Celtic’s board of directors didn’t spend too much time deliberating over a successor to Ange Postecoglou and it was no surprise that they turned to Brendan Rogers as he was free after leaving Leicester City.
Not everyone was happy with this appointment and I suppose I can understand this in that many people feel he abandoned Celtic when he left to take up the Leicester appointment in 2019.
I must confess that it didn’t bother me terribly at the time, but looking back not much good came of it in that Neil Lennon’s second term wasn’t particularly successful and we missed out on the 10-IAR.
Clearly Ange Postecoglou was a wonderful successor, being successful in almost every domestic competition entered and it was no great surprise that he followed BR to the English Premiership.
There was an awful amount of bitterness directed at BR when he left. It was levelled against him that he abandoned Celtic in mid-season to go to Leicester, but he said himself at the time that this was necessary so as to assess what need to be done in preparation for the following season and it was also thought that the position would not be kept open for him if he didn’t take it up then. Initially he was successful with Leicester but things dis-improved and he was relieved of his responsibilities before the end of last season.
I think a few points have to be made here. In the first place football is a professional sport and both sides [i.e. manager and directors] are free to take whatever decisions best suit them. What I am saying here is that, in the event that BR had not been successful with Celtic, the board would have been free to dispense with his services and appoint a replacement.
This is a necessary option for any board of directors so that they can act for the benefit of their club. If the board of directors has this freedom of action then it follows that so does the manager, and that is the path that BR chose.
It seems that BR was not satisfied at the time with the lack of ambition [as he saw it] demonstrated by the board, particularly in Europe, where they failed miserably to be honest. He was unable to extract a promise of the necessary finance from Dermot Desmond to compete at that level against the best reams in Europe [and maybe even against the teams that weren’t all that good either], and arising therefrom he departed.
Celtic have now confirmed that the necessary finance will be made available and BR has confirmed that he will remain in the job for the duration of his three year contract.
As regards Ange Postecoglou, as indicated above, it wasn’t a huge surprise that he followed BR to England, where salaries are much larger, and clearly he was ambitious to try his luck in the Premiership. Every time a vacancy was announced in England Ange was mentioned and no surprise that he eventually departed.
Now the Celtic support must extend the hand of forgiveness to BR and give him every support. BR is a first class manager. He is experienced as a Premiership manager. Steven Gerrard has previously stated that BR is the best man-manager he has encountered from the point of view of motivation and inter-personal skills.
I don’t imagine that there will be a huge difference between his approach and that of Ange Postecoglou in that both place the emphasis on attack and on pressurising the opposition when not in possession.
As regards the strength of the squad, BR has acknowledged the good work done by AP to strengthen the team over the past two years. On the other hand, Jota has departed for Saudi Arabia, Aaron Mooy has retired and Alistair Johnston is still out injured.
It appears that Johnston will be side-lined for about two months. I don’t believe this to be a major problem in that Anthony Ralston is available to deputise for him. While Johnston is a very capable player, Ralston is a great substitute to have available and I have every confidence that he will do a fine job when he comes into the team.
I think, however, that BR needs to sign a new keeper. Joe Hart is not getting any younger, but is playing very well, and goalkeepers can play on until they reach the age of forty, but the problem is that there is nobody of that standard capable of filling his shoes when he is unavailable.
There are rumours that Abada wants a transfer. If Abada moves, there will be opportunities for Haksabanovic and the new man Marco Tilio from Australia [although he is injured at present and will not be available for some weeks into the new season.
But it is Europe that will determine the success of BR. As indicated above, money will be made available to bring in players that can compete at that level. I think it is generally agreed that Celtic failed in Europe under BR. We can remember the trouncing’s handed out by Barcelona and PSG.
It was levelled against BR at the time that he was tactically too inflexible and that there were times when he should simply have “parked the bus” in those games but he chose not to. He will need to be more flexible in Europe in the future and it may be necessary for him to set aside his principles when necessary.
I am looking forward to the new season. I do not believe that there is another manager in the SPFL who can compete with BR as regards effectiveness and experience and there is every appearance that Celtic will be well ahead of everyone else.
It will be interesting to see how the fee received from the sale of Jota will be utilised as well as the kitty promised by Dermot Desmond. Interesting times ahead.
Tim Molloy is a life-long Celtic supporter and an Irish language enthusiast.
He is a law graduate of London University and is a High Court Registrar.