BRENDAN RODGERS admits Celtic is “a much different place” than when he returned for his second stint in charge in June last year.

It was evident a section of the support had not forgotten – or forgiven – the Irishman’s swift departure to Leicester City in February 2019.

Rodgers had led the club to seven successive trophies – two titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups – before his surprising and abrupt exit.

He addressed that situation on the day of his comeback as successor to Spurs-bound Ange Postecoglou and kept his word as he delivered a league and Cup double in a difficult campaign.

TRIUMPHANT…Brendan Rodgers holds aloft the Scottish Cup after the 1-0 victory over Philippe Clement’s Ibrox side at Hampden on May 25.

Now Rodgers, 51, is preparing for a twin assault on the domestic clean sweep as well as making an impact in Europe.

The manager is back at Lennoxtown with some of the players – excluding a few first-teamers including internationals such as captain Callum McGregor, Anthony Ralston, James Forrest, Greg Taylor, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Alistair Johnston.

Looking refreshed and tanned after a family break in Majorca – where he bumped into former skipper Scott Brown – Rodgers is looking forward to replicating the harmony between the players and fans that helped push the club to silverware success last time around.

Sending a message to the supporters, the Celtic chief said: “We are just going to work very, very hard over the course of this pre-season.

“We look forward to seeing you again in some of the games locally and, if you’re travelling to America, we look forward to seeing you then.

“It feels a much different place than 12 months ago coming back, so I’m really excited about this season and producing a team and a level of football that they can be really proud of.

“So, we look forward to seeing them on the journey over this pre-season and then we all get ready to unite and go forward together for what will be a really exciting season with the new format of the Champions League and everyone being together.”

JUST CHAMPION…Brendan Rodgers celebrates Celtic’s third successive title with Callum McGregor and Joe Hart among those joining in.

The Hoops boss, who will go toe to toe with his ex-onfield leader Brown in a friendly against Ayr United at Somerset Park tomorrow night, continued: “It’s absolutely brilliant to be back.

“We had a great end to the season and I think everyone enjoyed the off-season, so it’s really nice to be back and good to see the players and the staff again.

“At that point, it was really all about enjoying that time of winning. We saw that in the Scottish Cup Final when I got all the guys in on that line of staff and player to just actually get a real sense of that present moment, and enjoy it, because sometimes it can pass you by.

“But then that’s gone, you take the acclaim – a fantastic end to the season – go away and recover, but now you’ve come back and you refocus.

“And it’s all now about sacrifice and commitment to going forward. That’s just about creating the mind-set over the course of these coming weeks.

“This is when they build a lot of their base fitness. Of course, we have lots of players who will drip-feed themselves back in over the course of the next few weeks, so not everyone is here.

“But by the time the first game of the season comes, the players will be at a really good level.”

PARADISE…Brendan Rodgers acknowledges the acclaim of the Celtic fans after the team’s 2-1 win over Rangers at Parkhead on May 11.

The champions will kick off their quest for their fourth successive Premiership title – and the 55th crown in their history – with an encounter against Kilmarnock at Parkhead on Sunday August 4.

Before that, though, there is the game against Brown’s side and Queen’s Park on Wednesday and then three matches in a whirlwind six days in The States where they will face DC United, Manchester City and Chelsea.

The squad will fly out for the USA a fortnight on Saturday.

Rodgers, speaking to Celtic TV, added: “It’s where you’ve got the time to again look at the vision of going forward and what it is you want to achieve around your goals, around your values, and also with the introduction of new players into the club.

”You build your way through pre-season. Firstly, I think it’s important to recognise the teams at home, teams like Ayr, teams like Queen’s Park.

“They are really important clubs back here at home and we want to be able to support and help those clubs while maintaining our fitness.

“And going away to America, for our football fitness we come up against a level of opponent which is the very highest level with Chelsea and Manchester City.

“And playing against DC United, obviously one of the MLS teams, so that is always good.

“But I also think that bringing Celtic to the world is also important.

“Going back to America for the first time in a number of years, it’s a really special country and to take this club there obviously develops and grows the brand of Celtic around the world.”

Click Here for Comments >

About Author