IAN LADYMAN: I don't understand what Rodgers is doing at Celtic

IAN LADYMAN: As Celtic crash and burn in Europe again, I don’t understand what Brendan Rodgers is doing there

  • Celtic were thrashed 6-0 by Atletico Madrid in the Champions League this week
  • They have struggled badly in Europe, and it is not clear why Rodgers returned
  • What’s Brendan Rodgers doing in the Scottish wilderness? It’s All Coming Up

Brendan Rodgers will turn 51 in January. So the promising, energetic, innovative and engaging young coach who emerged at Reading and Swansea and then started the transformation of Liverpool in 2012 is now at what you may call managerial maturity.

What, then, is he doing spending valuable years back at Celtic?

I can feel the heavy landing of bile and hurt landing on my social media pages and in my email inbox already. And it is indeed important to say one thing at the outset. Celtic are a huge and important football club. They deserve a very good manager.

But Rodgers? I didn’t understand it when he went back there in the summer and as Celtic crash and burn in Europe once more, I understand it even less now.

He was Celtic manager once before, you remember. After Liverpool spat him out in 2015, he gathered himself and went to a place where he knew he would be operating under pressure but where he could learn some valuable lessons about how to win. 

Celtic were thrashed 6-0 by Atletico Madrid, and have taken just one point in Europe this term

Brendan Rodgers returned to the club in the summer but there has been no improvement in Europe

Mail Sport columnist Ian Ladyman does not understand why Rodgers went back to Celtic

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It worked and when he returned to England with Leicester in 2019 he did so having lifted every single domestic trophy available to him in Scotland. Seven from seven in two and a half seasons.

So I pose the question again. Why go back? What was there left to achieve and prove? Absolutely nothing.

A better record in the Champions League was a target but not necessarily realistic. No Scottish team has won a group game in the Champions League since 2017 and after this week’s 6-0 humbling at Atletico Madrid, that pitiful statistic runs on.

On our Mail Sport podcast recently, I described the Scottish football scene as a ‘wasteland of poverty and mediocrity’. Chris Sutton – a serial winner at Celtic back in the day when the financial gap between Scotland and the rest wasn’t so wide – took great offence. 

Celtic cannot win a game in Europe yet are eight points clear of Rangers in the Premiership and, in turn, 13 points ahead of St Mirren in third. So there is the evidence. There is the mediocrity.

Celtic are still dominating in Scotland, demonstrating how the league has become mediocre

It’s not the Scottish Premiership’s fault that it’s poor. It’s because TV companies don’t think a league with too few genuinely competitive matches each season is worth paying for. Under its current deal with Sky, the league as a whole receives £30m per season. 

By comparison, each Premier League club receives more than £80m a year from a deal worth £1.6bn. Scottish football is poor not just by comparison to the English either but also when placed against all the significant leagues across Europe.

So against this backdrop, what can Rodgers do? The Northern Irishman remains a coach of quality and personality but he cannot work miracles and to take Celtic out of a Champions League containing Atletico, Lazio and Feyenoord would have been a huge ask. The Dutch Eredivisie is not exactly in the rudest health its ever been in but even they take £90m a year from the broadcasters – three times the SPL figure.

Rodgers may have many reasons to be back in Scotland, both personal and professional. If he felt he needed some time away from the English game after a couple of difficult seasons as the spending was pulled back at Leicester then that would be understandable. Emotional attachments to Celtic are important too.

From this view in the south, though, it looks as though he is marking time. I feel he has much more to offer than simply rewalking a path already well-trodden.

Rodgers almost won the Premier League with Liverpool in 2013-14

Rodgers went on to lift the FA Cup with Leicester in 2021, but has now found himself back at Celtic

There has been some revisionism of his time at Liverpool. There are those who like to say it was Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling who almost took Liverpool to the league title in 2014 and that Rodgers was simply hanging on to their coat tails. What a load of nonsense.

After the mundanity of the Kenny Dalglish period, the shift between the Liverpool of then and the one subsequently accelerated beyond belief by Jurgen Klopp was initiated by Rodgers. His ability to improve players and his courage to afford his teams tactical freedom and responsibility was always refreshing and that survived and grew during his time at Leicester.

Rodgers won the FA Cup there and really should have taken Leicester in to the Champions League. Twice they threatened and twice they fell away but I would have fancied his Leicester team to scare a few in Europe’s elite competition in a way Celtic simply are not able to.

Nobody should take pleasure in what the Scottish Premiership has become. We should all wish it health and, somehow, prosperity. But I still can’t for the life of me work out what Rodgers is doing back there.

Hat-trick Jackson had a nightmare!  

Rarely, if ever, have I had cause to wonder whether the scorer of a Premier League hat-trick also has a claim to being the worst player on the field.

With that in mind, step forward Chelsea forward Nicolas Jackson, whose three late tap-ins against nine-man Tottenham could not quite wipe away the memory of the haphazardness of what he had contributed before.

Equally, within the chaos of Chelsea’s 4-1 victory, was a performance from 21-year-old Cole Palmer as good as any from a young player this season.

Nicolas Jackson scored a hat-trick against Tottenham, but also squandered a number of chances

His team-mate Cole Palmer (pictured) has hit the ground running at Chelsea after joining from Man City in the summer

One true measure of a footballer is how they play when their team is up against it and in those first 20 minutes — as Tottenham’s attacks crashed against Chelsea’s defensive line like white waves — Palmer was exceptional, taking the ball, turning and holding it or drawing a foul to relieve pressure.

Palmer was the one outlet during that rocky spell on whom his team could wholly rely. His was a performance of extraordinary maturity.

I have no idea why Manchester City sold him. But he already looks the best player in Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea team and after just eight Premier League starts — five for Chelsea and three for City — I would have him in the England squad. Some young talents should not be ignored and Palmer should be fast-tracked as soon as possible.

Multi-faceted memories of Mick

I chose to study in Newcastle in the late 1980s, largely because I fancied watching top flight football.

That didn’t work out so well. Newcastle were relegated at the end of my first year.

I was lucky, though. The late Jim Smith built an attacking new team as he narrowly failed to drag them back again, and at the top of a good old-fashioned 4-4-2 stood Micky Quinn and Mark McGhee.

They scored 61 goals between them in 1989-90, none more memorable than the two each they contributed as Newcastle came from 4-2 down to beat Leicester 5-4 at St James’ Park that January.

Former Newcastle striker Micky Quinn (pictured) was involved in one of the most dramatic games I’ve ever seen

I thought about this when asked this week to name the most dramatic game I have ever witnessed. That one is certainly in the shake-up.

I then thought about the sight of Quinn trying to navigate his way off the revolving dance floor of the Tuxedo Princess nightclub, that used to be moored under the Tyne Bridge, one Saturday evening.

It was only then that I realised that some memories actually trump all others.

They say Manchester United have turned another corner in the Premier League. But the problem with corners is that if you keep turning them, you are in danger of ending up back in the same place.

Erik ten Hag’s side have threatened to turn a corner, but are back at square one after losing to Copenhagen on Wednesday night

So now we learn some football agents want to renegotiate their clients’ appearance bonuses on the back of being asked to play so much added time this season.

Football matches last so long these days because of endless VAR checks, certainly, but also to make up for all the minutes lost to time wasting, feigning injury and arguing.

Instead of trying to solve these problems, some of our players wish to profit from them.

Tone deaf doesn’t even begin to cover it.


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.

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