10 May The Invincibles spirit
Brendan Rodgers feels the environment and unity at Celtic has given his players and himself the opportunity to improve during his first season in charge.
Rodgers collected the PFA Scotland manager of the year award on Sunday night after guiding Celtic through the domestic campaign unbeaten ahead of their final three league games and the William Hill Scottish Cup final.
The former Swansea and Liverpool boss found a club and a squad willing and able to move in the direction he wanted when he replaced Ronny Deila last summer, and the results have been outstanding as Celtic close in on what would be a fourth treble in their history.
“When you have to present a vision in terms of how you want to work, I think that’s important,” Rodgers said. “When you come into a football club, people have an idea of how you work because of your previous teams, but you still have to create the pathway for them.
“Then from that first day, it was really about putting that into action.
“Very important for us was that the club was very much one, both on the field and off the field, in every aspect, and that could give us the power and strength to go forward. Because Celtic is, I have said it before, one of the great iconic clubs, but the strength of Celtic is everyone together.
“If you can be together and move forward, and have good players and a good environment, that’s key to success.”
As well as two trophies so far and qualification for the Champions League group stages, the achievements of Rodgers and his backroom are evident in the personal improvement in the likes of Stuart Armstrong, Dedryck Boyata, Callum McGregor and even captain Scott Brown.
“For myself and the coaching staff it’s just trying to maximise what we get out of players,” Rodgers said.
“A lot of that is focused on their strengths: what are their strengths, what are they good at, and how can we develop their strengths to a greater level? While looking at other aspects of their game as well.
“Hopefully if you pull it all together you’ve got something tangible to show. But it’s just about time on the training field and hopefully getting the rewards from that.”
Rodgers has also found Glasgow the ideal place to develop himself as a manager after losing his job at Liverpool the year after leading them to the verge of the Premier League title.
“It was important after Liverpool that I could take time out to reflect,” the 44-year-old said. “And I think as you grow older and gain more experiences, of course you become better. It’s a natural consequence of coaching life, the older you become the next year you become better because you have more experiences.
“I have really enjoyed, firstly, working with the players. What is very important is that you create an environment where players can develop. I always believe that, in the main, players want to improve, they want to be better. And 95 per cent of them will do. So I have really enjoyed that element of creating the environment for them to improve in.
“But I have also loved how competitive it has been in relation to other coaches, other managers. I have seen quite a few different tactics to what I had been used to in the south. So that presents a different challenge.
“So the combination of all of that has made it a really exciting season, made it a very successful season for us up until now. We just want to continue with that. But what’s very important is that you continue to learn as a coach, and each day you do that.”