BRENDAN RODGERS didn’t hold back when he was asked for his thoughts after Celtic’s stuttering display against St Johnstone in Perth on December 3 2023.

A grim-faced Hoops boss had just witnessed his side gift the hosts an interval advantage before a spirited second-half revival, sparked by skipper Callum McGregor, saw them clinch three crucial points.

The inspirational midfielder struck with a 67th-minute equaliser before Matt O’Riley thundered an unstoppable right-foot drive into the roof of the net for the second. Evergreen winger James Forrest made certain in stoppage-time with a calm finish for the killer third.

Afterwards, Rodgers observed: “It’s probably the angriest I’ve ever been at half-time in my career as a manager. We were just nowhere near it.

THUMB’S UP… Brendan Rodgers looks grim faced as he acknowledges the Celtic fans in Perth.

“The second-half was what I would expect – much better energy, tempo to the game. Callum McGregor was absolutely brilliant second-half and his goal sparked the reaction.

“Some players want to be too comfortable and just do enough – and it’s not enough at this club. You have to have that mentality and that intensity from the first whistle.

“We just can’t drop at this club. The standards are very, very high and have been set over many years.”

Rodgers added: “I said to the players at half-time that we’ve gone a game and a half and we haven’t scored – with the greatest respect – against St Johnstone.

“Our levels need to be much better and they were in the second-half.

“It’s a little reminder for the players that the minute you drop off, there are good teams and managers in this league that can set up teams well and hurt you.”

THE EQUALISER…Callum McGregor celebrates putting Celtic level against St Johnstone.

The champions restored momentum and some prestige with a 4-1 win over Hibs at Parkhead three evenings later, but Rodgers was left seething again following a mysterious second-half collapse against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the following weekend.

The Hoops didn’t respond to the challenge of Derek McInnes’ side in the second period and meekly surrendered to their first league defeat of the campaign at the same venue where they went out of the Viaplay League Cup in August.

The Hoops were bullied and pushed aside by their aggressive opponents and two goals in 12 second-half minutes sealed their fate.

Their cause wasn’t helped when one of the Killie strikes came from Nat Phillips who made a mess of trying to cut out a right-wing cross from Brad Lyons in the 75th minute.

That goal nullified O’Riley’s ninth strike of the season in the 33rd minute to give the visitors a half-time lead.

Killie got the winner in the 87th minute when Alistair Johnston gave away possession at one end of the pitch and the home outfit raced upfield for Matty Kennedy to tuck the ball behind Joe Hart to cut the Parkhead side’s advantage at the Premiership pinnacle to five points over their nearest challengers who have a game in hand.

UNHAPPY…Brendan Rodgers can’t hide his frustration at Rugby Park.

A dismayed Rodgers said: “I thought in the first-half we played some really good football and deserved to be in front.

“We created opportunities and played the game that we wanted to play. I think in the second-half we didn’t start the game well enough.

“Obviously, we knew there were going to be moments of pressure in that first 10 or 15 minutes when we had to deal with the set-pieces.

“We did that, but we never passed the ball. We played the game that they wanted to play and got rid of the ball instead of passing it, which meant then we couldn’t sustain attacks and we couldn’t arrive up there as much as we would’ve liked.

“So, overall, it was disappointing. But, still, we should be better.

“I don’t think we can look at anyone today other than ourselves.”

The manager’s mood wasn’t enhanced a week later as he watched his team tamely accept a 2-0 loss to Hearts in front of a stunned home support.

OOPS…Nat Phillips deflects Killie’s leveller past Joe Hart.

OOPS…Matty Kennedy slips the winner beyond the exposed Joe Hart. 

It was a day of massive frustration in the east end of Glasgow as some comic cuts defending gifted the visitors an early lead when a corner-kick found Lawrence Shankland totally unguarded at the back post to blitz a header high past the static Hart.

The keeper was left clawing fresh air when Stephen Kingsley swirled in a long-range free-kick to give the Tynecastle side an unlikely two-goal interval advantage.

Rodgers pulled no punches after the side’s TWELFTH dropped point in this campaign and said: “Our desire and the mentality right from the off was nowhere near the level of a Celtic team. Very passive and lacked fluidity.

“The game started a little bit slow, but our ability to keep the ball in the final third and create wasn’t quite there. Then, we got outdone very naively from a corner. The second goal was a fantastic free-kick, but, when you look at the build-up and what led to the free-kick, it was so passive it was frightening.

“It is a real, real sore one. For the first time I have been here, over my two periods, I would have to apologise to the supporters. That level is nowhere near the standard of performances required at Celtic.

“Nowhere near it. That lack of consistency and mentality and desire.

“It is way, way off what this club demands and, like I say, you’re sat there in mid-December with sixty-odd thousand in and that’s how you perform. It is not acceptable.

X-CERTIFICATE…Brendan Rodgers watches Celtic toil against Hearts at Parkhead.

“That result is on myself and the players. We’re there, on the pitch, we have to be so much better than that. We have to focus on that. You can blame whoever you want. but the reality is that that’s us on the field.

“And it’s nowhere near good enough for a Celtic team. I’ve been here long enough, I know the climate here, the expectations. Standing watching it, it’s not the level of a Celtic team or anywhere near it.”

The Irishman added: “I don’t feel the wheels are coming off the bus. It’s football. We have no divine right to win every game.

“This game is not an easy game. I always say that to players, sometimes you make it look easy but you have to put so much work in.

“It’s not rocket science, it’s a desire and mentality and that ability to work hard and, when you have that and you have talent, a lot of the time you will win when you are a Celtic player.

“Listen there is still a hell of a long way to go and I know December is normally a grind up here, you are playing every three days. But that’s the expectation, that’s where we’re at. We have to find that strength, we ned to analyse where it’s at and what we can be much better at.

“But, for me, it’s quite an easy reflection – you have to have greater desire and mentality. If you do that, you have a much better chance to succeed.

“That’s something I as a manager have to look to fix.”

*TOMORROW: Don’t miss the eighteenth instalment of the remarkable Brendan Rodgers Story so far.


Click Here for Comments >

About Author