Brendan Rodgers defends Celtic players before Lincoln Red Imps return

New Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers during the press conference

Early indications are that Brendan Rodgers will not be swayed by popular perception.

The Celtic manager’s refusal to label the 1-0 loss to Lincoln Red Imps last week as embarrassing raised eyebrows and triggered a wave of criticism. On the eve of the Glasgow second leg of this Champions League qualifying tie, where Celtic will seek to swat aside their opposition from Gibraltar, Rodgers stood by his relaxed reaction to an inauspicious start to his tenure.

“I am aware the supporters want to get through,” said Rodgers. “That’s the most important thing. These games are always built up as walkovers but there are not too many of them in modern football. It doesn’t matter who the bodies are, if they work in a bank or not, if you have 11 people behind a ball and they are fit enough they can make it very difficult for you.

“I think that was proven last week. So, of course, we expect to do better and we are disappointed. But even if we had won 1-0 last week it wouldn’t have been deemed a good result. For me, the job was always going to be finished at home and that’s what we aim to do.

“I am working with a group of players who are so humble and have no ego. This is my first experience of up here in terms of coming in for pre-season and you have your most important games right at the front.

“I was disappointed with the result, of course. Everyone was. Results will always spark a reaction. For me, it has always been about getting the job done. The question was, was I embarrassed by the players – no I wasn’t.”

This, of course, represents an obvious management tactic. There is little point in him castigating a group of players who will be relied upon to try to return Celtic to the group stages of the Champions League for the first time since 2013.

“I will always be honest with them,” added Rodgers, who knows his side will face either the Lithuanian side Zalgiris Vilnius or Astana of Kazakhstan in the third qualifying round if they can overturn the deficit. “The problem with modern football is that everything is shock, it’s the worst result in the world, it’s always the worst result in the history of Scottish football.

“Social media does probably play a part. As a manager I’ve never been one to get too carried away with a win. I never get too disillusioned when I lose. This group - and they do need some help - at this period of the season when they are fighting for fitness, and the games are front loaded, are giving me everything. Apart from last week’s result, they could not have done any more since I walked through the door.

“We’ll now look to get the result and the job completed. This job involves perspective. I know headlines need to be made and written, but I can’t afford to worry about that.”

Where Rodgers does have an obvious concern is at centre-back , with Jozo Simunovic and Dedryck Boyata injured, Celtic lack strength in depth. Rodgers admitted he hopes to have at least one new arrival before the end of this week. The deadline for registering players for the next Champions League round falls on Thursday.

“It’s a big concern but that’s what we have,” said Rodgers of defensive issues. “Ideally, we would want to try and at least have one more in by the deadline, all being well. Is it realistic? I would hope so. It won’t be the fault of this club if not. The club are looking to do everything they can to support my needs and what I want.”

Powered by article was written by Ewan Murray, for The Guardian on Tuesday 19th July 2016 22.30 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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