Graham Ruthven: Is Brendan Rodgers setting up for the long goodbye at Celtic?

Our new Scottish football columnist Graham Ruthven reads between the lines of some recent comments from Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers…


It’s 116 weeks since Brendan Rodgers was first appointed Celtic manager, but none have been as testing as the one the Northern Irishman has just endured.

The former Liverpool and Swansea boss has enjoyed unprecedented success since journeying north of the border two years ago, winning back-to-back Trebles while leading the Hoops to the group stages of the Champions League in successive seasons.

And yet what has happened over the past seven days could prove to be a precursor for Rodgers’ eventual exit.

While any talk of a crisis at Celtic Park is overblown, there is no denying the fraying around the edges of the club.

Head over to for the latest Scottish Premiership odds

First, the Hoops somehow managed to botch the signing of John McGinn, a player seemingly destined to play for Celtic given his ancestral links to the club. But, from that transfer market failure came a discussion over financial backing, or rather a lack thereof.

Rodgers has called for more backing in the transfer market, even raising the possibility that he leave Celtic should he be denied in his demand.

“My job is done then. Terminado. Gone,” he said when asked whether his job would be compromised in the event of a transfer market lockdown. “We don’t want to stand still. How do we improve? We improve in Europe and in order to do that, it’s simple, it’s quality players. It’s too late once the rot sets in. It’s too late.”

From this revelation came a disappointing home draw to AEK Athens in Champions League qualification and a limp defeat to Hearts in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday.

Now, an increasingly agitated Rodgers faces a watershed moment in his Celtic career, with Tuesday’s trip to Greece representing as close to a crunch match as he has experienced in his time at the club.

However, does he really have grounds for exasperation? After all, Rodgers has been backed in the transfer market to a far greater extent than any of his immediate predecessors.

Ronny Deila, for instance, had to make do with the £2m signing of Stefan Scepovic, plus the loan additions of John Guidetti, Jason Denayer and Jo Inge Berget, among others of similarly unimpressive repute, in his first summer in charge.

Rodgers, on the other hand, was handed Scott Sinclair, Moussa Dembele, Cristian Gamboa and Kolo Toure for a collective £8.5m.

On top of that, Celtic spent over £10 million last season on Olivier Ntcham, Jonny Hayes, Jack Hendry and Marvin Compper, as well as loan deals for Odsonne Edouard, Patrick Roberts and Charly Musonda, with Edouard’s loan deal made permanent for £9 million this summer.

That’s the biggest fee Celtic have paid for any player since the days of John Hartson and Chris Sutton.

If Rodgers is facing a career crossroads at Celtic, as has been the suggestion over the past week, it is of his own making.

Rangers might be sitting above their Glasgow rivals in the Scottish top flight for the first time since 2011, with the Ibrox side undoubtedly improving game-on-game under Steven Gerrard, but the gulf is still vast enough not to concern Celtic.

An eighth successive league title, and maybe even a third Treble-winning season in a row, is in the offing. They should be sitting pretty, but instead things are getting ugly.

With all this in mind, is it possible that Rodgers is creating the circumstances for his own exit?

By starting a tug-of-war with the Celtic board, the Northern Irishman may have pre-emptively turned the arrows away from himself, making chief executive Peter Lawwell and owner Dermot Desmond targets instead in the event of his departure.

This way, Rodgers could cynically, yet effectively, change the narrative around his escape.

Celtic fans may point the finger at the media for stirring hysteria, but it was Rodgers himself who first raised the possibility that he could leave.

That suggests the thought has at least entered his mind. The Northern Irishman might have reiterated his desire to stay in Glasgow after Saturday’s dismal defeat, but the past week felt like the start of a long goodbye.

Whenever Rodgers does depart, it will likely be traced back to what happened over the past seven days.

Score your Scottish Premiership punts at

What do you think?