Brendan Rodgers reflects on eye-opening Celtic experience; namechecks Ange's new advantage
Former Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has reflected upon his first competitive match as boss in a 1-0 loss against Lincoln Red Imps.
The former Liverpool boss arrived at Celtic Park in the summer of 2016, replacing the out-going Ronny Deila after a disappointing final season in the dugout.
There was much excitement surrounding the arrival of the Northern Irishman, who took the English Premiership side within touching distance of winning the league.
Of course, Rodgers would go on to become a roaring success as Celtic manager, lifting every domestic trophy he competed for and leading his side to an entire league season unbeaten.
Although his days at the Hoops may have become a great success, it didn’t exactly get off to the best of starts for the now Leicester City man.
Rodgers faced early Champions League qualifiers, and in the opening round, the Bhoys were up against European minnows Lincoln Red Imps from Gibraltar.
The Hoops suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat in the first leg, which was also Rodgers first competitive game in charge.
His side overturn the tie the following week, coming through comfortably, defeating Red Imps 3-0 at Celtic Park, and although Rodgers expected that would be the case, it was a real opener for him.
Speaking in an interview on the Kammy and Ben’s Proper Football Podcast, Rodgers reflected on that night in Gibraltar and namechecked the Champions League advantage Ange Postecoglou’s side now holds, with automatic entry into the competition.
He said: “I remember playing in Gibraltar; we had a really good pre-season. And this is the tough thing, it’s great for Ange now because they’ve got no qualifiers and go straight into the group stage.
“Back then, you got four qualifying rounds. So, you’re having to play eight games just to try and get to the Champions League.
“I had gone in that summer (2016), the guys were fantastic in pre-season, but even in that first game in Gibraltar, you could see the vulnerabilities of the team in Europe.
“So, we lost 1-0 out there. It was a game over two legs you were going to win because you went back (to Parkhead). But, it was an eye-opener at that point to lose that opening game against, with all due respect, guys who were part-time.
“And, it was a real eye-opener in terms of you could see the supporters weren’t happy even though they probably knew we would get through. But that was part of the journey.”
Postecoglou and Celtic set to embark upon new UCL journey without any qualifying worries or scares.
As Rodgers mentions, thankfully, Ange Postecoglou and his squad have the luxury of not being involved in Champions League qualifiers this summer.
Instead, the Hoops have earned direct entry into the competition after lifting the Scottish Premiership title last campaign.
Rodgers was the last man to take us into the group stage, picking up just one victory over Anderlecht in 2017 in a group which also involved PSG and Bayern Munich.
Many Celtic fans will be able to remember the scares we have been through during the qualifying process over the years, including the likes of Red Imps and Artmedia Bratislava.
Hopefully, that is a concern we won’t need to worry about for a few years to come, and we help improve the status of Scottish Football in Europe once again.