BRENDAN RODGERS accepted the applause of 60,000 joyous Celtic supporters at a rocking Parkhead on Saturday in the afterglow of a vital 2-1 triumph over Ibrox opposition.

The victory – the Irishman’s third in the derby duels this season – propelled the champions to within one point of their third successive title with only two games – against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Wednesday and St Mirren in Paradise on Saturday – still to play.

Amid the celebrations, Rodgers took the opportunity to bite back at some of his critics and doubters, as CQN reported yesterday.

JOLLY RODGERS…the Celtic boss celebrates with the Celtic fans after Saturday’s crucial victory.

Former Hoops goal hero Chris Sutton was among those with observations that were less than kind, and, as the team stumbled to consecutive losses in December, the one-time England international striker stated the team and the manager were “going through the motions.”

Rodgers reacted to that reference and the media pundit replied: “Brendan has a right to his opinion, just the same as I have a right to mine.

“At that time when I used that phrase, Celtic were playing poorly, even in some games they were winning. They didn’t look at it and I said that is the manager’s responsibility.

“Celtic had just lost back-to-back Premiership matches to Kilmarnock and Hearts with weak performances. A lot of people mentioned the displays were not good enough. Even Santa got booed!

“Judging by what I was seeing at that time, that’s what I felt, so that’s what I said.”

Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “I’m not going to hide or just say nice things about Celtic all the time because I played for them.

GOVAN GLEE…Brendan Rodgers shows his joy after Kyogo Furuhashi’s memorable matchwinner at Ibrox in September.

“That’s not what I get paid for. I get paid to say it as I see it and that goes for every club, Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts, anyone in Scotland or in England.

“Brendan has made reference to it after the Rangers win and that’s perfectly fair for him to do so, just as it’s perfectly fair for me to voice an opinion.

“Celtic are going to win the title now and that’s what Brendan was brought back to Celtic to do, so that deserves praise.

“Rangers have fallen apart in the past month and Brendan has got his team playing at the right time when Philippe Clement has not. Important players have returned and he’s lifted the performances and the results at a vital stage of the season.

“That’s worthy of great credit.”

Sutton added: “Brendan seemed to suggest prior to the Rangers game that some people had chosen to ignore the fact he had key players missing in stages during the season, I didn’t.

LOOKING DOWN…Brendan Rodgers takes stock for a moment.

“I referenced it consistently, just as I referenced the fact I expected him to get more out of the squad in some games without them.

“He’s spoken about progress in the Champions League. I didn’t see much of that myself, so I’m not in agreement on that one.

“But it is beyond doubt that Brendan and Celtic deserve praise for winning this title which they will do now and I’ll be the first to offer it when it’s secured because it’s praise that will be fully justified and merited.

“That’s how it is for me. Criticise when I feel it is merited. Praise when that is also merited. I’m not going to change.

“That’s just cheating people who ask for an honest appraisal.”

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