The manager reveals he felt ‘broken’ after leaving the club in 2019
Brendan Rodgers has spoken candidly about his decision to leave Celtic for Leicester City in 2019, admitting he felt ‘broken’ by the reaction of some fans. The Northern Irishman, who returned to Parkhead earlier this week, said he understood the anger and disappointment of the supporters who felt he had betrayed the club. He also expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to come back and lead the team again, promising to stay for the duration of his three-year contract.
Rodgers left Celtic in February 2019, when the club was on course for a historic treble-treble, to take over at Leicester City. He had won seven trophies in two-and-a-half seasons at Parkhead, including back-to-back domestic trebles. His departure sparked a backlash from some fans, who accused him of swapping immortality for mediocrity. A banner was unveiled during Celtic’s 2-1 win at Hearts in midweek calling Rodgers a fraud, saying he had traded ‘more than a club’ for ‘less than a city’. A video shared online also showed supporters chanting abuse at their former manager.
The manager explains why he took the Leicester job and why he came back to Celtic
Rodgers said he had no regrets about taking the Leicester job, but he wished he could have left Celtic in a better way. He said he was motivated by the challenge of working in the Premier League and the potential of the Foxes, who had won the title in 2016. He also said he felt he had taken Celtic as far as he could at that moment, and that he had left the club in a stable position for future success.
He said: “I’ve seen what’s been said but Celtic supporters will hurt. I understand how they feel. They are hurting and maybe a little worried in terms of what might happen with me leaving. Words, you always have to be careful with. I’ve seen the banner, the Celtic supporters are hurting. They gave me everything so I’m not going to say anything other than that. It was a shock and they are probably angry but eventually reality will set in and the work we did will be appreciated. But what gave me the comfort to move is what we put in place there was going to stabilise the club going forward. I knew, coming away, the improvements made will hopefully allow that success to continue.”
Rodgers said he was delighted to return to Celtic, after being approached by the club following the departure of Ange Postecoglou. He said he had an amazing time in his first spell and he was excited to work with the players and staff again. He also said he was determined to win more trophies and qualify for the Champions League, and that he would not leave the club again unless he was sacked.
He said: “It wasn’t a nostalgic move, but I had an amazing time here. I’m very privileged and honoured. My whole plan was to have a year out and reset but once I spoke to the guys at the club and looked a little more deeply into where the club is at, it was pretty straightforward. The club is in a fantastic place, and it made me really excited to come back. I’m here to win going forward, and I really look forward to hopefully achieving that. I guarantee I will be here for the three years, unless they get rid of me. I’m very happy to be here and I want to give everything to the club.”
The manager praises the job done by Postecoglou and the quality of the squad
Rodgers also paid tribute to his predecessor, Ange Postecoglou, who left Celtic after leading them to the Scottish Premiership title and the Scottish Cup last season. He said Postecoglou had done a remarkable job in difficult circumstances, and that he had left behind a strong and talented squad. He also said he was looking forward to working with the new signings, including Odin Thiago Holm, who joined from Valerenga on Thursday.
He said: “Ange did a brilliant job here. He came in at a tough time, with a lot of changes and a lot of pressure. He handled it very well and he won two trophies, which is fantastic. He also played some great football and developed some of the players. He’s left a great legacy here and I wish him all the best for the future. He’s left me with a very good squad, with a lot of quality and potential. I’m really pleased with the players we have and the ones we’ve brought in. Odin is a very exciting young player, who can play in different positions. He’s got a lot of talent and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
The manager sets his sights on the Champions League and the domestic competitions
Rodgers said his main objective for the season was to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League, something he failed to do in his first spell at Celtic. He said he was confident the team could overcome Midtjylland in the second qualifying round, after drawing 1-1 in Denmark on Wednesday. He also said he was aiming to retain the domestic titles and challenge for the League Cup and the Scottish Cup, and that he would not underestimate any of the opponents.
He said: “The Champions League is a big target for us. It’s a prestigious competition and it’s where we want to be. We had a good result in the first leg, but we know we have to finish the job at home. We have to be focused and prepared, because Midtjylland are a good team and they will make it difficult for us. We have to play with intensity and quality, and hopefully we can get the result we need. We also want to do well in the domestic competitions. We have a lot of respect for the other teams, and we know we have to work hard to win every game. We have a lot of hunger and ambition, and we want to keep improving and winning trophies.”