BRENDAN RODGERS, even if he didn’t know it at the time, was competing with David Moyes for the managerial vacancy at Celtic Park after Ronny Deila recognised that he wasn’t the man to take the club forward.
Celtic wanted to big name, an experienced manager would could galvanize the club and get the supporters excited again.
The shortlist had two names on it, Rodgers and Moyes, and Celtic had no guarantee that they would be able to entice either to Glasgow.
Of the two, Rodgers was regarded as the long shot. He would possibly prefer to wait for a vacancy at one of the top English sides and when such a job became available, the Rodgers, so unlucky not to win the Premier League with Liverpool, would be in with a shout of getting the nod.
For Moyes, a former Celtic player in the early 1980s, his was a case of re-building his reputation after the bruising experience of trying to follow Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
Should neither Rodgers or Moyes fancy a move to Glasgow it would be back to the drawing board for the Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell.
But he had two shots to get one of the two big names.
Moyes played hard to get. He was coy, playing his cards close to his chest. He wasn’t not interested, exactly but he was clearly interested in seeing what other offers would come his way.
Having tried his luck in Spain after his time at Old Trafford damaged his reputation but significantly improved his personal wealth, Moyes was probably looking to get back to the Premier League.
That’s where he made his name as a decent manager at Everton. He’d done very well at Goodison Park without actually winning anything but trophies are less important south ion the border it seems.
So if the former Celt, whose own managerial star was lower than before, was reluctant what about the star name?
Rodgers was keen from the start. He made it known that he WANTED to manage Celtic, but it would have to be his way.
Celtic didn’t like what they were hearing. They were loving it!
Today as he approaches one year in the job, Rodgers looked back at the terms and conditions he signed onto and is rather pleased at how it is all working out.
‘When you have to present a vision in terms of how you want to work, I think that’s important,’ Brendan said.
‘When you come into a football club, people have an idea of how you work because of your previous teams, but you still have to create the pathway for them.
‘Then from that first day, it was really about putting that into action.
Scott Brown was invited to Rodgers’ house in London. The Celtic skipper turned up with a decent bottle of red wine and the two had a drink and a man to man chat.
Rodgers had watched the games from the previous season and must have been more than a little concerned about the squad he was inheriting.
And with Celtic’s assistance he had benefited from a detailed telephone conversation with Ronny Deila, who gave his own views on what was going on at the club. Ronny was frank, honest and extremely helpful.
And he had plenty of interaction with Peter Lawwell too so by the time he arrived in Glasgow that sunny afternoon last May, he had a decent handle on the events of the previous few years. Brendan takes about this point today.
‘Very important for us was that the club was very much one, both on the field and off the field, in every aspect, and that could give us the power and strength to go forward. Because Celtic is, I have said it before, one of the great iconic clubs, but the strength of Celtic is everyone together.
‘If you can be together and move forward, and have good players and a good environment, that’s key to success.’
Rodgers stated that he wanted to work with a smaller squad but he found a dressing room as busy as the House of Commons at Prime Minster’s Question Time. It was busy and it was divided.
In James Forrest he knew there was a player in there but wondered where he’d been these past few years. Forrest was heading out the door, unhappy, off form and if he left he’d hardly have been missed.
Tom Rogic, for so long injured, looked like he was for the off too.
Scott Brown and Mikael Lustig both just had their own worst seasons form wise as Celtic players.
Dedryck Boyata was a player short in confidence, suffering from poor form and with the fans on his back, looked a terrible buy from Manchester City.
Stuart Armstrong looked like he had found his level at Dundee United and the move to Celtic was exposing him as a pretty ordinary player.
On it goes through the squad Rodgers told would be doing it his way.
‘For myself and the coaching staff it’s just trying to maximise what we get out of players,’ said Rodgers.
‘A lot of that is focused on their strengths: what are their strengths, what are they good at, and how can we develop their strengths to a greater level?
‘While looking at other aspects of their game as well.
‘Hopefully if you pull it all together you’ve got something tangible to show.
‘But it’s just about time on the training field and hopefully getting the rewards from that.’
The next job after Liverpool was going to be crucial for Rodgers, but he knew Celtic and understood what he could achieve here, despite the feeling down south that he was moving to a footballing backwater.
‘It was important after Liverpool that I could take time out to reflect,’ he said. ‘And I think as you grow older and gain more experiences, of course you become better. It’s a natural consequence of coaching life, the older you become the next year you become better because you have more experiences.
‘I have really enjoyed, firstly, working with the players. What is very important is that you create an environment where players can develop. I always believe that, in the main, players want to improve, they want to be better. And 95 per cent of them will do. So I have really enjoyed that element of creating the environment for them to improve in.
‘But I have also loved how competitive it has been in relation to other coaches, other managers. I have seen quite a few different tactics to what I had been used to in the south. So that presents a different challenge.
‘So the combination of all of that has made it a really exciting season, made it a very successful season for us up until now. We just want to continue with that. But what’s very important is that you continue to learn as a coach, and each day you do that.’
Davie Moyes opted for a move to Sunderland. His team were relegated last weekend. Rodgers has two trophies in the bag and one more possibly to come. He is the PFA Scotland manager of year and will undoubtedly win the Sports Writers award too.
He will re-shape his squad when the season ends, moving on some on the fringes of things this year, and he will have the £2million new hybrid pitch installed in the summer.
He’s enjoying himself in Glasgow and every Celtic supporter is delighted that he came home to lead the green and white.