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Will Brendan Rodgers get over the first road bump in Celtic tenure?

Tuesday 14th August 2018

For the first time in Brendan Rodgers' tenure at boyhood club Celtic, there have been murmurs of discontent from the Irishman. 

Until recently, things had been going swimmingly for Rodgers. On the pitch, he has won back-to-back domestic trebles. The 45-year-old is yet to miss out on a trophy against fellow Scottish teams. Two successive qualifications for the lucrative Champions League is another superb achievement. Off the field, he has always maintained a positive relationship with the board, seemingly understanding that the Bhoys cannot compete financially with Europe's top clubs.   

However, things have taken a turn for the worse in the past week, with Rodgers firing shots at the club's hierarchy prior to the Champions League qualifier against AEK Athens. The Celtic boss said that Stuart Armstrong and Patrick Roberts, who both left this summer, have failed to be replaced. After chasing Hibernian's John Mcginn, the Scottish champions eventually missed out when Aston Villa stepped in to sign the midfielder.     

On Wednesday evening, Rodgers would have been delivering his team talk ahead of the AEK game as Villa confirmed McGinn's arrival. His mood didn't improve, with the Bhoys held to a 1-1 draw, leaving them a gargantuan task to progress in Athens on Tuesday.  

Following that result, the atmosphere around Celtic Park worsened on Saturday after a 1-0 loss away at Hearts. In December, Rodgers' first ever defeat as manager came at Tynecastle, which is proving something of a bogey ground for his side. 

Rodgers is no doubt a fantastic manager. In the current football landscape, Celtic are very fortunate to have him. The Carnlough-born coach is a huge upgrade on predecessor Ronny Delia. With the situation south of the border, he could be earning a lot more money elsewhere. 

At present, Rodgers' love for the club is keeping him at Celtic. The recent frustration is easily understood. Since his arrival in Glasgow, the financial gulf has got bigger. Premier League teams receive more and more money each year from television deals, making his job to attract players increasingly difficult.    

When Rodgers identifies potential new talent, the board must move quickly. It's a tough enough task to find value for money in the current market without bungling deals with the old biscuit tin mentality. 

It's clear the Bhoys need some fresh blood. Rodgers made two changes against Hearts in order to rest players for the Athens trip. It backfired, though. Johnny Hayes and Kouassi Eboue both looked out of their comfort zones. Last season, those minutes would have gone to Armstrong and Roberts. Although neither was first-choice, they are better than those now tasked with acting as back-up.  

Fortunately, the Scottish transfer window is still open. Celtic have until 31 August to improve their squad. However, it could be too late for this season's Champions League hopes, which is the main difference maker between them and domestic rivals. 

This is the first time Rodgers has faced any real difficulties in Scotland. His reaction over the coming weeks and months will be telling. Until now, he has done more than enough to earn the board's backing. Whether it comes remains to be seen. 

If Rodgers isn't given assurances, then the lure of Premier League money may prove too good to turn down even for the most diehard Celtic man. 

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Gerry Johnston

I am a 33-year-old sports writer from Ireland who enjoys watching European football. My main focus is La Liga, but I do keep a close eye on all of the major leagues throughout the world.

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