Bottling Brendan! Rodgers faces repeat of Liverpool nightmare at Celtic

Sam McGuire
Sam McGuire
  • Updated: 19 Feb 2024 15:52 GMT
  • 5 min read
Brendan Rodgers, Celtic, Steven Gerrard, Liverpool, Philippe Clement, Rangers

A little shy of two months ago, Celtic beat Rangers in the Old Firm clash to move eight points clear at the top of the table.

It was the perfect way to enter 2024 for the Bhoys. Now, though, mid-way through February, the reigning champions find themselves behind in the title race and the pressure is mounting on Brendan Rodgers.

Article continues under the video

The former Leicester City boss returned to Parkhead in the summer, replacing Ange Postecoglou following his departure to Spurs. At the time, it was viewed as a coup. Despite a disappointing end to his time at the King Power Stadium, Rodgers was still viewed favourably. After all, he was linked with Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea prior to his return to Celtic.

Ange Postecoglou left Celtic in the summer
© IMAGO - Ange Postecoglou left Celtic in the summer

Rodgers' return

Bringing him back to the club was a risky move. Rodgers had left Celtic for the Leicester job with the Scottish champions on course to win a third domestic treble in succession. After his abrupt exit, fans of the Glasgow giants unveiled a banner which said “You traded immortality for mediocrity: never a Celt, always a fraud.”

And yet, for the most part, his return was celebrated by the green half of the city in the summer. Ultimately, he was the biggest name the club could get. He knew how to win in Scotland. There are no guarantees in football but he was probably as close to it as possible if Celtic wanted to extend their reign of dominance.

Everything appeared to be going to plan too. The Bhoys had a seven-point lead over Rangers when the Gers decided to part ways with Michael Beale in October. The win in the Glasgow derby towards the end of December opened up an eight-point gap. From there, it was expected to be a formality.

Following the game, Rodgers opened up to Sky Sports: “Very important win for us, December has a lot of games. The atmosphere was fantastic. It's still such a long way to go, it's nice for the confidence the players. You win at Ibrox, you win here. The second half of the season will get better. I'm delighted for the supporters, I sensed a bit of anticipation ahead of this game."

Since that game, however, Celtic have won just three of five games in the Scottish top-flight. They narrowly defeated Ross County and Hibernian - needing a last-minute penalty against the latter to secure all three points. They have drawn with Aberdeen and Kilmarnock, conceding a stoppage-time equaliser in their last outing.

Matt O'Riley and his teammates looked to be cruising toward another title
© IMAGO - Matt O'Riley and his teammates looked to be cruising toward another title

Pressure mounting

This patchy form, coupled with Rangers going on a rampant run of seven successive wins, now means Celtic are the hunter rather than the hunted. They are two points off of the top.

The Bhoys dropped just two points at home throughout the 2022/23 campaign on their way to the title. But the 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock means they have already dropped nine points this season at Parkhead.

Former Scotland midfielder Michael Stewart Celtic look defeated, saying: "Celtic in the end looked like the away side. They looked dead on their feet. They were hanging on. Credit to Kilmarnock because they got the sense of that as well."

"It takes a long time to build that invincibility. It can disappear very quickly and that's what's happened here. Brendan Rodgers will be scratching his head wondering what else he can do.”

While ex-Celtic striker Chris Sutton feels the manager is partly to blame for this. "Celtic have been bang average all season. I know Brendan [Rodgers] in the week was talking about the recent form and winning eight of the last nine. The wins have papered over the cracks."

"Performances haven't been there. I don't think Celtic are kidding anyone - they aren't a good team this season. Everyone talks about the board and signings and this being a long time in the making, this particular moment. But Brendan Rodgers has to take responsibility.”

Pressure on Brendan Rodgers is mounting
© IMAGO - Pressure on Brendan Rodgers is mounting

A serial bottler?

Fans have been fairly vocal online about their frustration with Rodgers this season. And you can understand exactly why. The football isn’t what it was under Postecoglou, the players aren’t performing anywhere close to their previous levels and, perhaps most importantly, the former Liverpool boss does have a track record of derailing a good season.

When at Anfield, the Reds lost out on the title after a disappointing spell towards the end of the campaign. Similarly, Leicester missed out on a Champions League place two seasons on the bounce after collapsing after the turn of the year.

The Foxes finished four points outside of the top four in 2019/20 having taken just four points from their final five matches. In fact, they won just five of their 18 matches after New Year. The following campaign saw them finish a point outside of the top four. Again, they claimed just for points from the final 15 on offer.

While Celtic’s season isn’t a write-off, the fact there’s been a 10-point swing in such a short space of time is a huge worry and should not be overlooked. Rodgers needs to prove he’s still got it in him because his reputation will not survive another sacking.

Never miss the next big transfer!

Get the latest transfer insights and analyses directly in your mailbox.