When Brian Clough swept into Elland Road to take over as Manager of then First Division Champions Leeds in 1974 his first act was to order his players to forget the achievements of the past and to throw their medals into “the biggest f*@king dustbin” they could find.
He had no interest in the successes of the previous era under legendary boss Don Revie (who had departed to take on the England job) and wanted his new charges to focus solely on the challenges that lay ahead.
Fast forward almost 50 years and Brendan Rodgers – a man born the year before that in 1973 – seems to be relaying a similar message to the current Celtic squad.
Granted the Irishman seems to have delivered his message in a far more polite manner than the enigmatic Clough – but the sentiment remains the same.
In the modern day scenario Ange Postecoglou assumes the role of Revie who having seen Leeds enjoy a period of sustained success under his stewardship, decided to take on the challenge of managing the national side.
For Ange that different challenge is Tottenham Hotspur, following two years of domestic domination at Celtic.
His last act in Glasgow of course was the delivery of the Scottish Cup. A trophy which sealed a world record eighth domestic treble.
The challenge for Rodgers is to now somehow improve on that.
But how do you follow such an act?
How do you motivate your players, and the fans, that things can get even better on your watch?
OUTLINING THE MISSION
From his very first press conference after he was formally confirmed as the man who would replace Postecoglou on the 19th of June, Rodgers has – respectfully – encouraged us all to forget about last season’s treble success and indeed the achievements of the “Ange Era” in general.
You could argue too that by asking supporters to forget matters of the past that he’d be pleased for his surprise departure in February 2019 to be included within that – but that’s a different debate for a different day.
All he can control – and all anyone can control – is what’s ahead, and he seems committed, determined, and motivated to do just that as he aims to replicate, and perhaps even improve on the successes of his first spell at Celtic Park.
It’s a smart approach and one that provides a laser focus for players and fans alike – as well as for Rodgers himself.
Speaking at Lennoxtown this week the Manager was only too keen to once again re-iterate his mission statement.
“Whatever you’ve done in the past, it doesn’t really matter.
I respect that of course, but if we’re to continue being successful it’s really about proving the point from now.”
So I then look at the energy of players, I look at the attitude of players, as well as that technical and tactical quality, and that’s something that’s been great over the course of this first seven weeks.”
Brendan Rodgers is only interested in looking forward ➡️
Respects the Treble, but that’s now in the past 🏆🏆🏆 pic.twitter.com/mYP0bJJOSC
— The Celtic Exchange (@CeltExchange) August 11, 2023
NO TIME FOR SENTIMENTALITY
Those principles were clear to see as early as last week’s opening game of the league campaign as Reo Hatate – an ever present under Postecoglou and a standout in the midfield for 18 months – found himself benched and replaced by forgotten man David Turnbull.
For comparison Hatate started 29 games in last season’s Scottish Premiership. Turnbull, just 6.
But last season clearly means very little to Rodgers and he’ll be carrying out his own ongoing assessments of the playing personnel before deciding who he can rely upon in the season ahead.
It’s a warning for all that complacency won’t be tolerated.
No one’s shirt is guaranteed – even if you’re a Treble Winner!
Despite that hardline stance, Rodgers is also well aware of the importance of team spirit and camaraderie and continues to work hard to improve in that area too.
“That’s something you always have to work on. It’s not something you can just let be.
You always have to continually re-invent the culture of your group so you have even more spirit, even more togetherness, even more cohesion.
It’s not something that just magically happens, it’s something you have to work on, on a day to day basis.
And then the magic begins, and it grows, and then you have that real strong togetherness.”
The Brian Clough comparison, though a bit extreme, is a valid one, and whether Rodgers took inspiration from the back to back European Cup Winning Manager or not is something only he can answer.
Whilst Clough’s European success (achieved at Nottingham Forest) is something that we can only dream of at this stage it is important of course to note that following his opening day tirade at Leeds he would then exit the club after just 44 days.
Fret not though – at 53 days and counting, our man is already way ahead of that!
We await the imminent European success.
Let the magic begin!
Listen to the latest episode of The Celtic Exchange Weekly as we discuss Rodgers’ Tactical Tweaks, Two Goal Turnbull and Starfelt’s Imminent Exit!
Available wherever you get your podcasts, by clicking the player below, or by listening here at The Celtic Exchange website.