LUBOMIR MORAVCIK believes Brendan Rodgers has taken Celtic by storm – just as Martin O’Neill did 16 years ago.

The Hoops legend was brought to the club by fellow-Slovanian Jozef Venglos and became an instant hero with two goals in the 5-1 landslide triumph over Rangers – only his second game for the club in November 1998. 

Kenny Dalglish and John Barnes were the so-called ‘Dream Team’ who took over from Venglos the following season after a barren campaign.

The former England international was axed in February 2000 after the shocking Scottish Cup exit against Inverness Caley Thistle at Parkhead and club icon Dalglish followed him out the exit door at the end of the season.

O’Neill quit Leicester City to take up the challenge of the ailing Glasgow giants and Moravcik was one of the players to benefit under the guidance of the Northern Irishman.

In the space of two years, the midfield marvel picked up two Premier League championships, a Scottish Cup and two League Cups.

Moravcik recalled: “With Brendan Rodgers in charge now, just as it was in our early days with Martin, there seems to be a real sense of renewed hope around the club.

“The fans are excited because they can see he has signed good players, which is important, as is the fact he has got everyone to take pleasure from the game.

“I was at the Motherwell match and they won 5-0 with what, for me, was a near-perfect performance.

“The team was very good, especially in the forward areas where they had a lot of movement and good passing.

“I think maybe the experience of the previous two seasons, in which Celtic have failed to qualify for the Champions League, persuaded the directors they should do something different.

“That has led to them bringing better players to the club.

“Again, that is a reminder of what they did when Martin took over. Money was made available to him to spend and he used it to bring in the likes of Chris Sutton, John Hartson and Neil Lennon.

“There were similarities with the current side because we used the wings a lot and played many times with two strikers.

“There were always a lot of players attacking in the forward areas. It was not Henrik Larsson who was causing the problems, it was Chris Sutton or John Hartson.

“Of course, it is difficult to compare teams across the years, but it also looks that way today.

“Scott Sinclair has the skill to play in the Premier League in England, but has chosen to play here, which is great for Scottish football and especially for the Celtic fans.

“And he is just one option open to Brendan. Moussa Dembele is an important player, Leigh Griffiths is very good and Patrick Roberts is another who can bring a lot of hope for success through his talent.

“So, the manager now has a lot of choices in the attacking areas, which is important because it means he is able to try different things to find the creativity they need on the pitch.

“I see a lot of young players being brought through, too, which makes me think Celtic are working hard on all fronts.”

Moravcik, now 51, added: “Playing against the very best teams amid the exposure you get in the Champions League gives players more confidence and boosts the profile of the club throughout Europe.”
Talking of great Celtic managers, 50 seasons ago Jock Stein was achieving something incredible at Celtic Park. That wonderful season is documented in a That Season in Paradise – Ten Months of Celtic Heaven which is out now on CQN Books. 
Order your copy now from www.cqnbookstore.com – it’s a book with a happy ending!

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