The Scottish Premiership returns this weekend, and it’s set to be a blockbuster campaign. Champions Celtic kickstart the defence of their title against Ross County at Celtic Park, whereas rivals Rangers will be playing Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. It’s a massively important season ahead for the Old Firm as the Hoops are only two trophies away from surpassing the Light Blues’ iconic trophy record of 117 trophies.
Celtic were excellent last season, winning a domestic treble, which was the 8th treble in the club’s history. However, they have been going through a transition phase after Ange Postecoglou quit for the Tottenham Hotspur job. Brendan Rodgers returned to manage the Parkhead side after controversially leaving four years ago for Leicester City.
The return of Rodgers has divided the Celtic faithful, with many happy to see him back and remembering how successful he was in his first spell delivering seven domestic trophies. However, others still hold a grudge over how he departed the club.
After the appointment of Rodgers for the second time, some Celtic fans voiced their displeasure, and a banner that criticised the Northern Irishman emerged again from Celtic fan group The Green Brigade that stated: “You traded immortality for mediocrity. Never a Celt, always a fraud.”
— North Curve Celtic (@NCCeltic) June 19, 2023
Rodgers addressed the banner and the backlash he got for how he left Celtic. He said: “I was aware of that. For me, I love the club and the supporters, and you will have critics. With the greatest respect, I don’t think winning a club the FA Cup for the first time in their [Leicester’s] history was mediocre or taking them into Europe when they’d never been and having three of their best four finishes in the league.
“I don’t think it’s mediocre, but everyone is entitled to their opinion.” When asked about the “fraud” claim, the former Liverpool manager added: “There’s only so much you can say, and probably this time I’ll maybe not express that so much.”
Rodgers has been busy in the transfer window bringing in right-wingers Marco Tilio and Hyuan-jun Yang, centre-back Maik Nawrocki, and midfielders Odin Thiago Holm, Tomoki Iwata, and Hyeok-kyu Kwon taking the summer spending close to £15 million. The Scottish champions sold arguably their best player Jota to Saudi Pro League champions Al-Itthad for £25 million, who is going to be tough to replace.
The former Leicester City boss doesn’t have a great track record in the transfer market. Scott Sinclair, Moussa Dembele, Odsonne Edouard, and Kristoffer Ajer were the only players that were a success out of the 28 players Rodgers signed during his first tenure at Celtic.
Rodgers’ poor transfer record dates back to his time at Liverpool too. Mario Balotelli, Tiago Ilori, Alberto Moreno, Ricky Lambert, Nuri Sahin, Lazar Markovic, Fabio Borini, and Christian Benteke were all signed by him and flopped miserably at Anfield. Rodgers’ failure to improve Liverpool’s defence in the 2013/2014 season was what ultimately cost him the league title that season.
If the Hoops are looking to emulate what their arch-rivals Rangers have achieved in Europe, they’ve gone to the wrong man in Rodgers to do that, as his European record is shocking.
2012/2013 Liverpool – knocked out of the Europa League last 32 knockout round.
2014/2015 Liverpool – sacked after two Champions League group games.
2016/2017 Celtic – finished bottom of their Champions League group with no wins.
2017/2018 Celtic – finished third in their Champions League group and knocked out of Europa League last 32.
2018/2019 Celtic – knocked out of the Europa League last 32 knockout round.
2020/2021 Leicester City – knocked out of the Europa League last 32.
2021/2022 Leicester City – third in Europa League group – Europa Conference semi-final.
Rodgers is a good coach, and he did well the first time around when he was in Glasgow, but back then, he was up against the worst Rangers side in the history of the Premiership. The Ibrox side are in a totally different place since Rodgers left four years ago. Since then, they’ve won the Premiership, reached a European final, and won a Scottish Cup – it won’t be as plain sailing and a joyride like it was for Rodgers seven years ago.
The 50-year-old is in for one of the most challenging seasons he’s had as a manager. The Gers have made nine signings this window and are set to mount a serious challenge this season to bring the title back to Govan. Rodgers has to hit the ground running this season, and he’s got a tough start that includes visits to Pittrodie and Ibrox. If Rodgers has a poor start and loses the first Old Firm showdown of the season at Ibrox, the Celtic fans will no doubt be quick to turn on him, as many are still bitter about how he bailed on them for Leicester City.
By: Scott Bradley / @ScottBradleyX
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Masashi Hara / Getty Images