Rodgers ‘never had any doubt’ about Celtic title challenge

Home » Rodgers ‘never had any doubt’ about Celtic title challenge

Manager Brendan Rodgers says he “never had any doubts” about himself or Celtic’s title credentials after they sealed their 12th Scottish Premiership triumph in the last 13 seasons.

The league leaders needed just a point at Kilmarnock to get over the line but dismantled the Ayrshire side 5-0 to clinch a third straight top-flight crown in style.

Questions have been asked of Rodgers, who returned to the club under a cloud of controversy, at times this season.

But the Celtic boss said his side “stayed focused” to hold off a Rangers side who are six points back with one game left.

“There was a lot of pressure on the players, but you only need to look at the results and the performances to see how they coped,” Rodgers told BBC Scotland.

“It means a lot [for me]. There were question marks over me: Was I good enough to be here? Could I manage this team? Could I get them to play the level of football expected?

“If you doubt it can be an issue for you, but I never had any doubts this season. As the season has gone on we’ve got better and better.

“I’m so pleased for the supporters, over these last few months we’ve all come together.”

It had looked as if Celtic might be confirmed as league winners 24 hours earlier, as Rangers trailed Dundee 2-0 at Ibrox.

Philippe Clement’s side recovered to win 5-2, but that only delayed an outcome that has seemed inevitable since they lost 2-1 at Celtic Park on Saturday.

That defeat left Celtic six points clear with two games remaining and Rodgers’ men finalised the arithmetic emphatically in Ayrshire.

“Our performance level was immense,” Rodgers added. “This was always going to be a really tough game.

“Everything I want in the team, technique, speed, power, mobility, creativity, it was all there.

“Overall, it was a brilliant team performance and a great way to clinch the title. We wanted to sprint over the line and we went over it really quickly.”

‘Rodgers overcomes negativity’ – what the pundits said

When Rodgers return to Glasgow was confirmed in June, some Celtic fans reflected back on his abrupt departure to Leicester City while on track for a third successive treble in February 2016.

And as Rangers fought their way back into the title race in the early part of the year, the murmurs of discontent grew louder.

But in retaining his side’s title, the Northern Irishman has quietened his doubters, says former Celtic goalkeeper Pat Bonner.

“There was hurt Brendan Rodgers returned,” he said on Sportsound. “He went down to a big team in England, those opportunities don’t come too often.

“Some fans found it difficult to accept. Rodgers has got over the negativity.”

While Michael Stewart believes the manager has once again proved his credentials, he says continental success will be next on Rodgers’ bucket list.

“Rodgers is a top class, elite manager,” the ex-Scotland international said.

“The one thing that will irk him is that he hasn’t been able to have a real impact in Europe with Celtic. That’s the next step.

How did Celtic’s campaign unfold?

Three Old Firm victories this season have proved pivotal and are among 27 wins for Brendan Rodgers’ side, who have lost just three of 36 league games.

It is a third Premiership title for Rodgers – who also left Celtic eight points clear in the 2018-19 season, when they went on to win the league under Neil Lennon – in his first season back in Glasgow.

This title success has not been as smooth as his previous victories, but Rodgers’ teams have come up with key performances when they needed it.

After an early-season goalless home draw with St Johnstone, they defeated Rangers at Ibrox on 3 September.

Then, despite back-to-back losses in December, they saw off Clement’s in-form side 2-0 at the end of the year.

Rangers were in command by February, though, and Celtic looked like falling four adrift before two stoppage-time goals turned a draw into a win at Motherwell.

A defeat and a draw for Rangers – as well as the 3-3 Old Firm draw at Ibrox – in April handed Rodgers’ side the initiative and last weekend’s victory at Celtic Park edged them close to the title.

How does this Celtic title win rank?

Better than Rodgers’ first two? Better than last season? 

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