CELTIC boss Brendan Rodgers has admitted to sticking stubbornly to his principles even when things got rocky on and off the field at the start of his third campaign as boss of his boyhood idols.

The seven-in-a-row champions missed out on transfer targets such as John McGinn and Scott McKenna, got caught up in the transfer controversy following the rejection of a £9million Fulham bid for Dedryck Boyata, toppled out of the Champions League to a mediocre AEK Athens outfit and failed to score in a defeat at Hearts, a stalemate against St Mirren in Paisley and threw away three points in a last-minute loss at Kilmarnock.

Moussa Dembele quit in a deadline day £19.7million switch to Lyon and around that time the Hoops gaffer admitted the club’s supporters had every right to be alarmed.

However, the Irishman refused to changed his ways and he has witnessed an astounding transformation in recent weeks with 23 goals scored in five domestic encounters and a well-merited 2-1 Europa League Group B triumph over big-spending Bundesliga side RB Leipzig on a remarkable evening at Parkhead on Thursday.

Defiantly, Rodgers exclaimed: “What you can’t have is doubt. I am very much an attacking coach and that is without compromise.

“But people forget that to attack you have to be really good defensively. Our identity is to be really aggressive and press, but, back then, we were searching for that. We were winning games, but it wasn’t quite the same team you were watching.

“However, you can’t get frustrated with the players. You just have to keep working, analysing and looking at performances and know, and trust, that they will get back to the level.

“Your job as manager and coach is to provide a stimulus for players to maintain the hunger. You can be as good a coach as you want, but sometimes the best stimulus for players is competition.

“We wanted to bring players in, but it didn’t happen. However, that’s okay – let’s keep working to how we want to play.”

And Rodgers expects his players to respond to another challenge in the noon kick-off at Livingston today where they can go back to the top of the Premiership after Hearts 1-0 loss to Kilmarnock at Tynecastle yesterday.

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report and the best action images from this afternoon’s High Noon showdown between Livingston and Celtic – only in your champion CQN.

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