“Brendan Rodgers, here for 10 in a row.” It’s a chant that, perhaps even more so than any Gerry and the Pacemakers tune, has become the anthem to Celtic’s astonishing success in recent years. As the Hoops won trophy after trophy, their supporters reminded all of the milestone they were edging closer and closer to and the man who would carry them over the line.
That appears no longer to be the case, though. Rodgers, it seems, isn’t even staying for eight in a row. He might not even stay for Celtic’s away trip to Hearts on Wednesday night. Indeed, Rodgers is expected to take charge at Leicester City, with the Scottish champions confirming they have granted permission for their manager to speak to the Premier League side.
While there had been hints that Rodgers was growing restless at Celtic, the news that he is set to leave now has come as a shock. Some fans have reacted angrily, and with some justification. Rodgers, more than once, played up being a boyhood fan Celtic fan, but his actions have left the club high and dry. For those of a green and white persuasion, this one hurts.
The love affair between Celtic and Brendan Rodgers was a strong one from the moment the Northern Irishman arrived in Glasgow back in the summer of 2016. 10,000 supporters showed up to Celtic Park just to greet their new manager, illustrating the level of excitement there was at the club around that time.
Rodgers re-energised Celtic. Under Ronny Deila, the Hoops won back-to-back league titles, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy a fanbase that expected their team to entertain, not just win. It wasn’t uncommon in the months preceding Rodgers’ appointment for whole tiers of Celtic Park to be closed for home games such was the apathy towards the side.
This could be the reality Celtic face once again in a post-Rodgers age. A number of names have been mentioned as the Northern Irishman’s potential successor, but few catch the imagination. Steve Clarke has long been tipped as a future Celtic manager, but for all his undeniable success at Kilmarnock his footballing philosophy is in stark contrast to that of Rodgers. It would be a jarring shift in style.
Of course, Celtic should have come up with a contingency plan by now.
This certainly wasn’t the first time that Rodgers has been linked with a return to the Premier League and so if there is a sense of panic at Celtic Park, that is down to a lack of foresight from Peter Lawwell and those in charge at the club.
Nonetheless, it does feel like Rodgers has let Celtic down somewhat. It was always a big ask to ask him to stay for the fabled 10 in a row, but bidding farewell after a Treble Treble (three Treble-winning seasons in succession, as Celtic are on course for) would have allowed him to preserve his legacy while doing what’s best for his career.
Now, Rodgers’ reputation north of the border, at least among Celtic fans, has been tainted. Emotions are raw right now and in time supporters will look back upon a glorious period of unprecedented success with Rodgers at the helm, but now that period will come with a footnote, an asterisk.
Rodgers did a lot for Celtic, but Celtic also did a lot for him. After leaving Liverpool, he was a figure of derision. A punchline. In Scotland, Rodgers rehabilitated his image, reminding us all of why he was so highly regarded as a coach in the first place. The Northern Irishman was always likely to use Celtic as a stop-off, albeit a trophy-laden one, on his way back to the Premier League. As a manager, Rodgers is of a calibre that would ordinarily be beyond Celtic, but it seems he may have forgotten what the club did for him.