BRENDAN RODGERS knew he was living the dream during his first stint at Celtic.

The 50-year-old Irishman, who returned to Parkhead in June to replace Spurs-bound Ange Postecoglou, revealed his awesome moment to author Alex Gordon when he was being interviewed for the tribute book to Celtic legend Billy McNeill, entitled ‘In Praise of Caesar‘ and published in 2018.

“I sat down with Brendan in the manager’s office at Lennoxtown to get his thoughts on the club great,” said Alex. “He was fairly expansive as he reflected on all things Celtic.

“His eyes lit up with a recollection of a special moment. Here is that story in another CQN EXCLUSIVE.

“Please enjoy.”

“It was Christmas Day and I was in Paradise.

“I stood in the centre circle at Celtic Park and looked up at the stand. I gazed at the words ‘Celtic Football Club 1888’ and, for a moment, I thought: ‘My God, I’m manager of this club.’

“It was a magical little passage of time.
“I was at the ground with the players on December 25 2017 as we prepared for the Premiership game against Dundee at Dens Park on Boxing Day. The boys had gone through their paces, I was alone and was simply walking towards the middle of the pitch. And somehow I found myself staring skywards.
“And that mystical name of my boyhood idols looked back at me. Once again, I acknowledged I was in a privileged position. I was living the dream. I was the manager of the club I had adored as a kid growing up in Ireland.
PARADISE…Brendan Rodgers is introduced to the Celtic fans in May 2016.
“After my pleasant reverie, the following day we travelled to Tayside and won 2–0 with first-half goals from James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths.
“You can’t help but think of the famous names associated with Celtic, all the remarkable characters and unforgettable individuals, the club’s folklore is packed with glittering personalities and special games.
“I grew up watching the fabulous team that won the Centenary League and Cup double. The family would gather round the television when BBC Scotland was on and showing the highlights of a Celtic match. I could reel off the line-ups starting with the great Packie Bonner in goal.
“What a fabulous side that was in such an illustrious season, the 1987/88 campaign when the club celebrated its one hundredth birthday.
The manager was Billy McNeill. It is with the greatest regret I never saw him play.
HOME SWEET HOME…Billy McNeill at Celtic Park.
“I was two years old when Billy retired as a player following Celtic’s 3–1 Scottish Cup Final victory over Airdrie in 1975. Typical of the man to go out in style.
“But, living in the village of Carnlough, in County Antrim, I soon got to know the name of the legendary Billy McNeill. My mother’s side of the family was Celtic daft. At a very early age, I was brought up on a diet of some possibly imaginative tales about Big Billy and the Lisbon Lions.
“As I informed the TV reporter after the Scottish Cup Final win over Aberdeen on May 27 2017, I was born into Celtic.
“I was standing in the rain on the trackside at Hampden Park while the Celtic supporters gave a stirring rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ when the interviewer stated: ‘This club have fallen in love with you and you have fallen in love with this club’.
SHAKE ON IT…Brendan Rodgers with author Alex Gordon at Lennoxtown.
“I had to correct him and say I was born into a Celtic family and there was no growing into the club. I said then that there has only been pride and it’s a huge honour to manage Celtic.
“I look back at the men who have been in charge of Celtic, the likes of Jock Stein, Martin O’Neill, Davie Hay, Tommy Burns, Billy McNeill, among others, and you realise the legacy they left at the club.
“That was my intention, too, when I arrived in May 2016. Billy McNeill is an absolute icon, a man who has been a supreme ambassador for Celtic.
“He is one of the great figures who has inspired Celtic to become what it is today.”
*FAIRYTALE OF NEWCO (with apologies to Shane MacGowan)
*CQN wishes all our readers the compliments of the Festive season. Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year, folks!
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