THE contrast in the messages pouring down from the Tynecastle stands was stark and not lost on Brendan Rodgers.
On Sunday afternoon, the Celtic manager was serenaded by the travelling support after the champions’ eye-catching 4-1 triumph over Hearts.
The emotions being displayed by the joyous followers were in direct conflict to those exhibited back on February 27 2019 at the same venue in the immediate aftermath of Rodgers’ rapid departure from Parkhead to Leicester City.
As Neil Lennon stepped into the dug-out for the second time – this time in a caretaker capacity – a hastily-scrawled banner proclaimed: “You traded immortality for mediocrity. Never a Celt, always a fraud!”
JUST CAPITAL…Brendan Rodgers acknowledges the Celtic support after Sunday’s 4-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle.
It was a bitter message from a group of fans obviously angered and distressed at the exit of the gaffer who had got the place jumping again after two fairly tedious years under Ronny Deila.
Plus Rodgers had also masterminded the team to seven successive domestic honours and the club were eyeing an eighth consecutive title with the magical ten looming into view.
The 50-year-old second time-around team chief, preparing his squad for tonight’s Champions League Group E encounter against Atletico Madrid, fully understands what triggered the rage over four and a half years ago.
That’s why the applause and acknowledgement from almost 600 club supporters was music to his ears as he and his triumphant players recognised the backing from the travelling fans in the capital at the weekend.
Asked about his current relationship with the followers, Rodgers answered: “The irony being the last time with the banner at Hearts.
“But, listen, it’s all about winning games. However long I’m here, and whatever we win, everyone may not be onside. That’s okay.
HAIL, HAIL…Brendan Rodgers’ message to the travelling support in Edinburgh.
“As long as the team gets the support, then that’s the most important thing. Of course, when you have that connection, like I had the first time when I was here, then it brings everything together. And it’s an amazing feeling. You need that synchronisation.
“If you want to succeed you need that relationship between supporters, the team and the manager. That’s very important and the supporters, in the main, have been great since I’ve come back here.”
Rodgers, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “I understand why there was a bit of resentment towards me coming back, but it was never going to stop me.
“I am professional enough in my work to focus on the team. And if I can produce a team that excites the supporters, and we can win things in my time here, then, hopefully, that can and will be acceptable.
”I knew the challenges coming here, of the perception. I also knew, like I said on the first day, I came back here because I knew people were hurt. And, if I’m being frank, I was probably suppressing my own hurt.
“The want to come back was knowing that people were hurt by that – and I knew it hurt them because of the relationship we had. So the idea was to come back and build that relationship again.
“I knew it wouldn’t be straight away because if you’re really hurt then that can take time. But, hopefully, in time, I can bring the success here that lets people see that I’m back here for the success of Celtic.
SCREEN GEM…Brendan Rodgers takes centre stage at Tynecastle.
“Hopefully, that can give them joy and our relationship comes together again.”
Rodgers added: “I had such a strong bond here and was in such a great place.
“Obviously, my professional challenge took me away, into the most competitive league in the world. And we achieved some great things with Leicester which was great.
“But from a personal perspective, the bond breaking – the depth of hurt that it gave – was probably overridden for a while just purely because I was professional and doing another job.
“But over time, you realised actually how much it had meant to be here both from a professional perspective and a personal perspective because I loved the life here in Glasgow and the people.
“So, that was the reason. The hurt that comes with making a decision, you live with it. You never regret that.”
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