BRENDAN RODGERS has admitted managing Celtic has presented him with a challenge he could not get in the English top flight.
The Irishman signed a new four-year deal with the Hoops last week and insisted the task of making the Parkhead outfit a regular Champions League Last 16 side will be more difficult than anything than could face across the border.
The former Swansea and Liverpool gaffer said: “As a coach, I couldn’t ask for a bigger challenge, to make Celtic a force in Europe without the finances available at other clubs.
“That’s why I signed for four years. If I went back to the Premier League, I’d have gone into millions upon millions of pounds, where it’s all about buying.
“What is forgotten about is nurturing players. We’re a blue chip club who will always want top players.
“But we also have to bring young ones through and that’s the challenge I’m looking forward to.
“Can we continue with this run while growing and developing a team for the Champions League?
“The target for Celtic will always be qualifying for the group stage of the Champions League.
“Then if you can get to the last 16, it would be a huge achievement for this club in the current financial market.
“If you don’t get out, can you finish in a Europa League position? Then can you go as far as you possibly can?
“That’s a very difficult prospect. Liverpool played 18 games to get to the final and lost.
“But it’s about being in there consistently and showing up well. Next season, the plan is qualifying for group stage again.
“Then can we get beyond the Christmas period in Europe? That would be another step for us.”
Rodgers added: “When we won the league last week at Hearts, I’ve got to say, I had more messages than I’ve ever had in my life.
“And that was mainly from people in England.
“Having worked in the Premier League before coming here, of course, there’s a focus on what it’s like in Scotland and how it’ll work.
“People know the level of my work. But most people in football know the size of Celtic.
“You never truly know the scale of it. The two boys who joined me had been around the game for a while.
“I was trying to explain to them why it was the move for us. There was more financial gains to go elsewhere, but I told them it would be great for us.
“You speak to them now, nine months on, and they just have sighs of happiness every day at Lennoxtown. It’s unbelievable. You can’t buy that.
“I’ve been on the big wages in England before and I know it will come again, another time. But it’s about being happy.”
The Rodgers Plan – Dominate Scottish Football and make an impact in Europe
Celtic have already won the Scottish Premier League and the League Cup and manager Brendan Rodgers is already looking forward to the next challenge which is winning the Scottish Cup to complete a domestic treble. Since Rodgers took charge last year, Celtic has been invincible in Scottish football having placed 39 domestic matches without defeat.And they’re now setting their sights on remaining available silverware.
In the first half of the season, the Bhoys cruised to the finals of the Scottish League Cup where they thrashed Aberdeen 3-0 in November’s final to secure their first piece of silverware for the campaign. This was also the first League Cup featuring the newly formatted tournament, kicking off with a group stage as opposed to the traditional knock-out rounds. The expanded field and unique bonus point system made for one of the most interesting League Cups in recent memory. Even so, few were surprised to see Celtic raise the trophy and secure its first honours on the way to a domestic treble.
The next target for the Hoops will be the Scottish Cup where Celtic are set to face off against Rangers in the semi-finals while reigning champions Hibernian will take on Aberdeen. Celtic narrowly missed out on the final last year to bitter rivals Sevco Rangers with a crushing defeat on penalty kicks, and you can bet the club are looking to make good on things this time around. While the Glasgow rivals face off in the semis, Hibernian will take on Aberdeen to see if they can reach the final for the second year in a row. Right now, it’s looking like there’s very little that can stand in the way of Celtic, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they reclaim the trophy that eluded them last year.
The team has been boosted by some excellent attacking play, and other clubs are taking notice of the available talent. The addition of striker Moussa Dembélé has been an exceptional signing, and so far the French forward has scored 17 goals in 27 matches. Rodgers is planning to complement Dembélé by bringing a high-class midfielder to Celtic Park once the transfer window opens up at the end of the season. The manager has made it clear that he isn’t content with domestic dominance, and is looking for the players to bring Celtic success in the UEFA Champions League as well. More than a few teams have been showing interest in Celtic midfielder Stuart Armstrong after the incredible season he’s been having, but Rodgers is keen on trying to hang on to the 25-year-old playmaker.
Things are really starting to come together for the Celts thanks to the guidance of Brendan Rodgers. The team has firmly re-established itself as the dominant force in Scottish football, and if Rodgers has anything to say about it, they’ll be aiming for Europe next.