BRENDAN RODGERS completed his second time-around Celtic campaign by sealing the league and Cup double on the iconic date of May 25 at Hampden.

The Irishman, who had returned after almost four and half years in ‘exile’ at Leicester City, mastermined the club’s third successive title and twelfth in 13 seasons.

Rodgers celebrated the club’s 54th crown in their glorious history the previous weekend when the curtain came down on the Premiership crusade with a 3-2 triumph over St Mirren at a pulsating Parkhead as the Hoops completed the term with an eight-point advantage.

The manager then turned his attention to the grand finale in the Scottish Cup showpiece against Rangers at the national stadium, 57 years to the day Jock Stein’s all-stars conquered Europe in Lisbon with their unforgettable 2-1 victory over Inter Milan.

GREEN FOR GO…Brendan Rodgers and his Celtic players prepare to line up before the Scottish Cup Final kick-off at Hampden on Saturday May 25 2024.

As ever, Rodgers did things in style. Adam Idah, who arrived in a short-term loan deal from Norwich City in January, rammed home a 90th-minute winner to seal a memorable double.

The gaffer admitted it was “satisfying” to prove his doubters wrong – and he added: “I’m not made of wood.”

Rodgers had a queue of sceptics following his June return as successor to Spurs-bound Ange Postecoglou and some of the team’s early form did little to win over the fans who hadn’t forgiven him for his abrupt departure in February 2019.

The criticism gathered momentum as the holders toppled out of the League Cup at the first hurdle – and the third game of the new campaign – at Kilmarnock and that was followed by a scoreless stalemate with struggling St Johnstone in the east end of Glasgow.

Rodgers said: “I’m not made of wood. We all have feelings. We’re all built in different ways, I feel I can deal with pressure and those situations. But it still doesn’t make you immune to everything.

SILVER SMILES…Brendan Rodgers with the newly-won Scottish Cup.

“What experience has given me is not to become too emotional with words.

“I can trace back to August, when the headlines were that I was under massive pressure. It continued right the way through.

“I had to show mental strength like the team has had to do and, eventually, the work that we did came through in the end. It’s been a challenging season in ways that I didn’t think it was going to be.

“A little bit awkward and a little bit of feeling [from the fans]when I came back, which I totally get. It’s satisfying, is what you would say. I’m satisfied in the work we’ve been able to do.

“It’s surprising a little that so many people didn’t see what was happening around the team, knowing how my teams operate and how they play, how they attack. It’s not full-out attack.

“I tend to think of my teams like a top boxer. A top boxer isn’t throwing punches all the time, he needs to put his guard up now and again. My teams are reflective of that. They attack, they’re aggressive, they score goals and they defend well.

“Clearly, there was a reason and a purpose as to why it wasn’t functioning quite the same. It certainly wasn’t that I had lost the hunger, or that I was going through the motions, or lost the stomach for the fight.

“So it’s been very satisfying.”

THE WINNER…Adam Idah snaps up a rebound from keeper Jack Butland to rifle in the Scottish Cup-clinching strike.

DOWN AND OUT…Jack Butland is left helpless.

LET’S MAKE SOME NOISE FOR THE BHOYS…Adam Idah races away in triumph as the Celtic fans enjoy another Cup-winning moment at Hampden.

THE VICTOR AND THE VANQUISHED…a forlorn Jack Butland looks on as Adam Idah celebrates with the Celtic fans.

In the silverware showdown at Hampden against committed foes, Rodgers, as ever, made some astute substitutions to freshen his team at specific intervals and pushed on Nicolas Kuhn, Paulo Bernardo and matchwinner Idah for James Forrest, Reo Hatate and Kyogo Furuhashi.

The success of the changes can be highlighted by the fact two of the replacements were directly involved in the trophy clincher.

Portuguese playmaker Bernardo evaded a lunging tackle from Nico Raskin just inside the opposition half before surging into enemy territory.

The on-loan Benfica player took aim and fired from just outside the box and his swerving effort totally flummoxed Butland who could only paw the ball into the tracks of the inrushing Idah who rammed the rebound into the inviting net.

And, at a stroke, the 150-year-old trophy was bedecked in green and white ribbons for a record 42nd time.

TWO ON THE TOUCHLINE…Brendan Rodgers and Philippe Clement have something to say. 

Rodgers, who has never lost at Hampden and has now won three Scottish Cups to go with three League Cups at the national stadium, beamed afterwards and said: “It was very tense game, a real nail-biting game at 0-0.

“But the players’ mentality to come through the game and to win it just really typifies how they’ve been over the course of the season, so I’m so proud of them and it’s an amazing day for the club.

“We arrived into the game in a really good mindset, but you can’t play beautiful football in every single game and you saw that with two different styles in this one.

“But the resilience and mentality really pushes us on to keep fighting and keep working, and eventually our drive and desire to win the game shines through.

“I said to the players beforehand that when they arrive into this game, it’s not the week’s preparation leading into it, it’s all about the other 51 weeks and how you work and how you’re discipline is, how your mentality is and your professionalism.

“That all then drives through into a game like this one.

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN…Brendan Rodgers and captain Callum McGregor climb the Hampden steps on their way to the Scottish Cup presentation.

“So, for the players to have come through a very tough game and come out as winners and have a really fantastic end to the season, I’m so proud of them.”

Rodgers singled out goal hero Idah and added: “To score a winning goal in a Scottish Cup Final, and especially coming from Ireland, it’s a fairytale really and I’m so pleased for him.

“He came in and he was not playing so much at Norwich, but I’d seen him before and I know the talent he has. I think he still has so much improvement to make, but I’m really pleased for him.

“It’s different types of goals he’s scored – great headed goals, he’s showed  pace in behind and showed composure in penalties and this one was a real striker’s goal inside the box.

“For me, he’s been the single biggest catalyst of our run-in, the importance he’s brought to the team, the reference he’s given the team. He’s shared the load with Kyogo and I’m so happy for him.”

WELCOME BACK, BRENDAN…the Celtic boss and his captain pose with the 150-year-old Scottish Cup.

Rodgers added: “I’m very conscious of the incredible history of this club, but also it’s important for the new generation of players in this era and this team to create their own history.

“We want to win and we want to win trophies consistently, so coming to Hampden you have to play well and have confidence that you can do that.

“So it’s nice to be able to finish with a double.”

And so say all of us.

Welcome back, Brendan!

To be continued…

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