BRENDAN RODGERS has spelled out his demands on his Celtic players as he prepares for his ninth game in charge since his second coming.
The 50-year-old Irishman has endured mixed fortunes on his return following an absence of four and a half years.
The holders went out of the Viaplay League Cup at the first hurdle to Kilmarnock, lost 2-0 to Feyenoord in the Champions League Group E opener and surrendered two points in a scoreless stalemate with struggling St Johnstone at Parkhead.
To balance that, Rodgers has seen his side triumph 1-0 at hostile Ibrox and pick up full points at Aberdeen and Livingston while enjoying league victories over Ross County and Dundee in the east end of Glasgow.
HAIL, HAIL…Brendan Rodgers salutes the Celtic supporters at Livingston.
Now he is preparing his squad for the tricky trip to Fir Park to face Motherwell in tomorrow’s 12.30pm showdown as they attempt to add three more pomts to their tally in their determined quest for their twelfth title in 13 years – and their 54th championship in their history.
A fired-up Hoops gaffer stressed: “You want to win and it’s painful when you don’t. But only the strongest will survive and be ready to go again when they get over that pain.
“That’s the key thing for a manager. The team have reacted brilliantly, you saw that at the weekend. This is a group which is very honest and I have no worries regarding that aspect.
“They need training, they need work, they need support, they need guidance and that’s what they will get. It’s how you respond to the defeats that helps you to go on and fight again. If you don’t then you can sink.
“But I was really proud of them after Feyenoord because that’s a game that can really get away from you. This team won’t unravel. The spirit is not broken.
“We see that when we go into a tough game at Livingston and play with the control I would want.”
REO GRAND…Japanese ace Reo Hatate is congratulated by Matt O’Riley after opening the scoring at Livingston.
Rodgers was especially satisfied with his team’s success in West Lothian after playing for more than an hour with 10 men after Joe Hart’s red card.
The Celtic boss, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “In terms of navigating through the games, it’s all part of the challenge early on.
“What I do – what I DEMAND – is that players play to the style we want. That they show a willingness to learn and they’re mentally going to be able to challenge themselves to be better.
“Those players who can deal with that will thrive in the environment. Those who find it hard or don’t have the bravery will leave – and it’s as simple as that.”
Rodgers oversaw the arrivals of recruits such as Australian winger Marco Tilio, South Korean pair Yang Hyun-jun and Kwon Hyeon-kyu, Honduran winger Luis Palma and Swedish midfielder Odin Holm in the summer.
The Parkhead chief admitted he will not hastily push the new Bhoys into frontline action.
Rodgers added: “Tilio has been out a long time. He’s come back into training and he’s finding the intensity a lot different to what he’s used to. So there’s an adaptation period.
NO-HOLDS BARRED…a determined Greg Taylor tussles with Livingston skipper Jason Holt for possession.
“But, for me, there seems to be a rush to play these players, when I don’t see what the rush is.
“You know, the players have come in, especially when they are young players, I don’t need them ready tomorrow. The young players who have come in are development players.
“I look at Odin Thiago Holm and he’ll be a fantastic player for Celtic. It’s just a question of timing and having a bit of patience with them. I’ve played young players before. I played 17-year-olds – I had Raheem Sterling in my team – so I tend to have an idea of when to put them in.
“But they have to be showing it in training in order to get that opportunity. So, Marco is just adapting to the intensity of everything. It’s a massive move for him so, for him, it’s just about timing and obviously showing it on the training field.”
Rodgers is unlikely to make too many changes from the victorious line-up at Livi with, of course, Scott Bain coming in for the suspended Hart.
Other than that, don’t expect too many new faces in at the start for another must-win encounter.