BRENDAN RODGERS has broken with tradition to ditch Celtic’s annual January warm-weather training in the Middle East.
It was the Irishman who instigated the trip in his first time-around as Hoops gaffer, but he has decided on a change of course to allow his players some time to spend with their families over the festive period.
The champions take on Motherwell at Parkhead this afternoon in the first of 11 games in a hectic 38-day period and Rodgers believes the time is right to give his staff a rest during the winter break between January 3 to 19.
Rodgers said: “We were looking to go out to Abu Dhabi, but because of the situation in the world and everything else, I didn’t want to bring any risk to it.
“Rather than waiting to see what happens, I thought I’d just make the decision early and allow the players just to spend some time with their families, which is probably more beneficial anyway.
“And, if we need to pick up some warm-weather training later on, we have a chance to do that.”
Rodgers, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “Normally, they would have had a number of days off and then we would have gone for a training camp.
“It will still be the same timeline, it’s just that they will be able to rest physically and mentally with their families.
“Especially over the next six weeks, they’re going to be away from them a lot anyway and you’re going to have guys whose parents are coming from abroad to be here. So, it will actually be nice for them to reconnect.
“I always think that when you’re a group or a team that wants to win trophies, you don’t win them in the last week of the season. It’s all these little moments that add up to arriving, to becoming a winner.
“It’s all about giving the players the chance to refresh after what will have been a hectic period. But that’s the life of a footballer. We’re very privileged and we’re very lucky, but it’s not attuned to normal life.
“So, we’re working when everyone will be celebrating and enjoying themselves – and in that period a player can get the chance to have their Christmas a wee bit later with their families.”
Following today’s match against the Fir Park outfit, Celtic travel to Rome to face Lazio on Tuesday the Champions League and they also face league trips to St Johnstone, Kilmarnock, Dundee and St Mirren over the period.
The second Glasgow derby of the season takes place at Parkhead on December 30 before the Hoops visit Paisley on January 2 before the interval.
As well as the visit of Philippe Clement’s Ibrox club, there are home Premiership games scheduled against Hibs, Hearts and Livingston.
Plus the curtain will come down on Europe’s elite competition with the home match against Feyenoord on December 13.
Rodgers added: “We’ve won 11 out of 13 games in the league this season and travelled to some really, really difficult places. That was especially difficult when we were still finding our feet at the beginning of the season.
“But now we’re starting to find rhythm and speed and tempo in our game and confidence, too. So starting this weekend, it’s the start of a number of big games for us.
“And I’m really excited by it.”
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v Motherwell this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.