International fall-out

Brendan Rodgers is confident that any disappointment among Celtic’s Scotland internationals will have been left at the gates of Lennoxtown.

The Scots’ hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia took a massive blow with a 1-1 draw against Lithuania at Hampden Park last Saturday followed by a 3-0 defeat in Slovakia on Tuesday night.

Striker Leigh Griffiths came on as substitute in both games and left-back Kieran Tierney played in the latter match in Trnava.

Also, winger James Forrest featured as a substitute against the Lithuanians while keeper Craig Gordon was on the bench in both matches.

All four returned to the club’s training ground to prepare for the Ladbrokes Premiership game against Motherwell on Saturday.

Asked if he would have to lift the players, Rodgers said: “No, not at all. I am sure they were disappointed but I always say to the players who go away to play with their international team, just worry about your international team, don’t worry about Celtic.

“Go away, give your best to the coaches and managers to be the best you can for your country.

“When you come back to here, only worry about Celtic.

“When you drive up through Lennoxtown and through the gates, the focus goes to Celtic and they come into an ambience where the spirit is really high.

“It is a good environment to come to and they just slotted back in this morning and trained very well.”

While speculation mounts about the future of Scotland boss Gordon Strachan, Rodgers believes the former Parkhead manager is “perfectly suited” to the job as national team coach.

The former Liverpool and Swansea City boss said:

“I don’t know Gordon that well at (from) all but the meetings and any chance I have had to speak to him up here, I think he is perfectly suited to be the manager of Scotland.

“Gordon is an excellent manager with big experience.

“He has showed in many clubs and this club here that he can get the best out of many players.

“There are maybe deeper rooted issues within Scottish football but like I say I haven’t been here long to see what they might be.

“But obviously of course when you are the manager you are always under the spotlight.

“But I think he is a good guy and he certainly had a lot of knowledge about domestic and international football.”

Rodgers was pleased that 20-year-old French striker Moussa Dembele, signed in the summer from Fulham, picked up the league sponsor’s player of the month award for September.

He said: “He is loving his life in Glasgow, playing for Celtic and knows he is at the best club for learning and developing.”

However, the Northern Irishman was keen to play down the highly-publicised appearance of his 13-year-old namesake Karamoko Dembele – no relation – who came off the bench for Celtic’s under-20 side against Hearts during the international window.

“I don’t want to speak too much on it, the coverage he has got on it is not right for the boy,” he said.

“This is a 13-year-old kid who is a talented player. He done a training session with the first team but at 13 he just needs to be left alone to develop.

“He is a child and we have to be all aware of that. He has got a lot to learn and improve on his game. You have to be very careful with young players, this kid does not need any more exposure.”

The older Dembele, who scored eight goals in September – five in the league – spoke about the teenager’s training session with the senior players.

The French forward said: “We didn’t want to kick him because he is still so small.

“He is a good talent but we have to wait and see how he will improve as a player.”

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