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Brendan Rodgers . . . Friend To Many At Celtic, But Fraud To Some

By Gareth James

Brendan Rodgers declared his return to Celtic “a very simple decision” but he faced an instant reminder of the work needed to appease some fans who were unhappy with the manner of his exit.

Celtic confirmed former Swansea City boss Rodgers had signed a three-year contract to replace Ange Postecoglou as manager, four years and four months after his sudden departure to Leicester after winning seven out of seven domestic trophies with the Hoops.

The North Curve Celtic Twitter account, which represents the Green Brigade and other members of the standing section at Celtic Park, soon posted a photograph of the banner they displayed at Tynecastle 24 hours after he left for Leicester in February 2019.

The sign read: “You traded immortality for mediocrity. Never a Celt. Always a fraud.”

Rodgers said on the club’s website: “I am really delighted to return to Celtic and I am hugely excited by this great opportunity. When I was given the privilege of being asked to join the club again, it was a very simple decision for me and my family.

“We have enjoyed some great times at Celtic before and this will be my goal again, to deliver good football, ensure we have a team we all love to watch and ultimately bring more success to our fans.

“Ange has done some brilliant work across the last two years and I will be doing all I can to maintain Celtic’s momentum as we face into all our domestic and European challenges. We have a hugely impressive and talented group of players and staff at the club, and I am really looking forward to meeting up with them all and then getting straight down to work.”

Celtic confirmed their coaching staff underneath Rodgers will remain unchanged with John Kennedy and Gavin Strachan both staying despite reported interest from Postecoglou to take them to Tottenham, who are now expected to appoint Rodgers’ long-time assistant, Chris Davies.

Rodgers had previously attempted to take former Scotland and Celtic defender Kennedy with him to Leicester.

“I wanted John to be with me as we move forward,” Rodgers said. “He is a very talented coach, someone I know well and respect and he will be very important to myself and our players.

“The club is in fantastic condition at all levels and I would like to thank the board for putting their trust in me to take the team forward. We will work very closely together as we strive to bring that success to our supporters.”

Principal shareholder Dermot Desmond is said to have taken a key role in persuading Rodgers to return to Glasgow.

Desmond said: “Our aim at Celtic will always be to bring individuals of the highest calibre to the club to achieve our objectives, and in appointing Brendan we believe we have again brought that quality to the club.

“Brendan is a very talented manager, he has huge experience at the highest levels and is a man who knows how to win and do so in style. As we enter another exciting period for the club I am sure he will tackle the opportunities ahead with his characteristic focus, drive and determination.

“We have all enjoyed great success across recent years, Brendan himself being a huge part of that. I know Brendan is determined to deliver again for our supporters and collectively, the board, management, players and staff will support him in this aim.”

Rodgers led Leicester to an FA Cup triumph, two fifth-placed finishes in the Premier League which saw them miss out on Champions Leaguer qualification at the final hurdle, and the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League.

He had them in the top half of the Premier League for four seasons but failure to recruit players last summer set them up for a difficult campaign which ended with relegation after he was sacked in April.

Celtic chief executive Michael Nicholson said: “Having spoken to Brendan and discussed the club’s strategy and objectives with him, I can see the passion he has for taking the club forward positively and building on what we have achieved.”

Rodgers appeared to have a difficult relationship at times with Nicholson’s predecessor, Peter Lawwell, speaking out about his frustrations over the club’s transfer approach during a protracted and failed bid to sign John McGinn from Hibernian during his final season at Parkhead, and displaying his ambivalence to the club’s signing of Marian Shved weeks before his departure.

Lawwell is now Celtic chairman and spoke enthusiastically about Rodgers’ return.

“Through the process of identifying the new Celtic manager, it was clear that Brendan was the outstanding choice and we are absolutely delighted that we have appointed him on a long-term contract,” he said.

“We wanted a proven winner and that’s what Brendan is, and myself and everyone else at the club look forward to working with him again to continue to drive Celtic forward.

“Brendan is a top-quality manager. He has delivered before for Celtic and we are sure through his many qualities, he will do so again.”

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