BRENDAN RODGERS has counted them in and counted them out.
The Celtic manager has gone head to head with FIVE of his Ibrox counterparts and enjoyed a fair degree of success while pitting his wits against the Govan conveyor belt of victims.
Mark Warburton, Pedro Caixinho and Steven Gerrard plus Graeme Murty in a caretaker capacity were met and vanquished – apart from a hiccup in a 1-0 away loss in December 2018 – while Michael Beale’s future in the role was put under intense pressure following the champions’ victory in a partisan stadium last month.
MAN ON A MISSION…Brendan Rodgers has success in his second stint at Celtic.
Now the Hoops’ city neighbours are about to unveil yet another team boss as they attempt to overcome Rodgers and end Celtic’s domination with the Parkhead men already massive favourites to lift their twelfth crown in 13 years with a seven-point advantage over nearest challengers after only eight games.
Former Hoops goalscoring legend Chris Sutton reckons the man who won seven successive domestic honours in his initial stint as team boss is already preparing to pile on the misery for the incoming gaffer, starting with the confrontation at a sold-out arena in the east end of Glasgow on December 30.
The one-time England international forward said: “Brendan Rodgers has already seen plenty of Rangers managers off the premises. I’ll bet he’s salivating at the prospect of putting another one to the sword.
“Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps Rodgers would have been quite happy for Michael Beale to stay in charge because that particular Ibrox project was going absolutely nowhere.
“But, having helped bring about the Londoner’s demise by beating him on his own patch with half a team missing and none of his club’s supporters inside the stadium, I’m convinced the Celtic boss will be licking his chops at getting stuck into sinking the next appointment.
DETERMINED…Brendan Rodgers displays his commitment before Celtic’s 1-0 win at Ibrox last month.
“Mark Warburton didn’t last long once Parkhead chiefs saw sense and led Ronny Deila out of the door to bring in the Northern Irishman. Pedro Caixinha was next with his caravans and dogs chat and he was never going to pose a serious threat to the dominance of the Celtic boss.
“Trebles collected on their respective watches and Steven Gerrard was going the same way before Rodgers headed for Leicester and Neil Lennon impressively finished off the job.”
Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “For all that Rodgers had some issues during his first spell at the club, he always had Rangers in his pocket and that’s massive at the Old Firm.
“Even starting back in this second spell, it was not all plain sailing. At the start of this season, signings were not in place and injury issues were a major concern going to Ibrox. Fans were disgruntled following two inept displays against Kilmarnock and St Johnstone in the matches immediately before heading across the Kingston Bridge.
“But winning at Ibrox does wonders for any Celtic boss and any lingering doubters over his appointment vanished into thin air with that 1-0 win.
“The reaction of the Rangers fans that day told you Beale wasn’t going to last much longer and so it came to pass with his dismissal. While Rodgers was an obvious candidate in terms of track record to return once Ange Postecoglou had departed for Spurs, it’s not quite been so clear cut a process for Rangers.
“Naturally, the new man’s first task will be to get the League Cup into the empty Ibrox cabinet with Celtic already out of the picture. But dealing with Rodgers will be the acid test.
“No Ibrox boss has managed it yet and, to be honest, the next one has no easy task.”
PARADISE IN GOVAN…Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates his matchwinner at Ibrox on September 3.
Sutton added: “Slowly but surely, Celtic look as though they are starting to come to the boil under the manager.
“As I said, it was a slow start. The cohesion was missing and there seemed to be a lack of edge as well as a lack of fluency in their play through that opening month.
“However, it’s starting to look as if Celtic are finding their stride at a crucial period.
“Even though Rodgers found wins at Ibrox and against Aberdeen at Pittodrie, last weekend’s win over Kilmarnock felt like the best they’d performed in the Premiership this term.
“The preceding victories over Livingston and Motherwell were dug out impressively in differing circumstances with problems and setbacks overcome, but the victory over Derek McInnes’ side was assured.
“Rangers’ new manager will be under pressure from the moment he gets going. Rodgers has a habit of making life tough for Ibrox bosses.
“There’s every chance it’s going to happen again.”