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Rodgers sends early transfer window warning to Nicholson

Brendan Rodgers has sent a gentle transfer warning to Michael Nicholson that this summer recruitment must be centred on quality.

Eleven months ago, after the initial contact from Dermot Desmond, the Celtic CEO flew out to Mallorca to discuss a return to Celtic for the former Leicester City boss.

It was a development that shocked most Celtic supporters, it had appeared that the divide between Rodgers and the club ran deep after the disastrous events that followed the Double Double of 2017/18.

While Rodgers talked John McGinn towards joining Celtic from Hibs Peter Lawwell’s personal issues with Rod Petrie scuppered that most obvious deal of the summer with the CEO coming up with Youssouf Mulumbu as an alternative.

After playing for the Belgian side that reached the semi-finals of the World Cup July 2018 was the perfect time to sell Dedryck Boyata who had one year left on his Celtic contract.

Lawwell say back basking in the acclaim of the previous two seasons, no central defender was signed with Boyata’s agent interrupting training at Lennoxtown demanding that Celtic accept a £9m offer from Fulham for his client. In May 2019 Boyata left as a free agent.

Those sort of incidents don’t do much for morale, as Lawwell worked on the Balance Sheet towards a pay day of £3.5m of salary and bonus the squad suffered and the manager became disillusioned.

Every season has to be a learning season on and off the pitch. I’ve gained nothing but support from Michael [Nicholson] and the people here but going forward, the football strategy is very much there in terms of what it is we want to bring in.

That answer was given in reply to a question from Stephen McGowan of the Daily Mail.

As well as Mulumbu, the summer of 2018 saw Emilio Izaguirre return after being sold a year earlier with Filip Benkovic signed on loan from Leicester City.

Erik Sviatchenko and Stuart Armstrong had been sold earlier in the window, the in-house accountants whooped with joy when Moussa Dembele was sold to Lyon on August 31 with no replacement lined up.

After being knocked out of the Champions League by AEK Athens at the third qualifying round Celtic were going into the new season with Odsonne Edouard as the first choice striker with the temperamental Leigh Griffiths the only alternative.

Rodgers soldiered on, won the League Cup after the semi-final against Hearts was switched from Hampden to Tynecastle, if he thought that the summer recruitment was challenging worst was in store in January. Much worse, preparing for life in the slow lane as a former manager once warned.

What can you possibly say about the ‘strategy’ that signed Oli Burke, Vakoun Bayo, Timo Weah, Marian Shved, Manny Perez, Andrew Gutman and Jeremy Toljan?

Burke, Weah and Toljan were brought in on loan, Shved was signed and sent out on loan with Perez and Gutman unable to work in Scotland!

Within a month Leicester City were introducing their new management team. Nicholson observed the whole episode in his role as Celtic’s Company Secretary.

Despite that experience Rodgers accepted the promises of Nicholson and Financial Director Chris McKay, signed a three year contract and returned to manage Celtic with Lawwell apparently sidelined as Chairman.

There was one massive catch to his return, Lawwell’s son had been catapulted into the crucial task of Head of Recruitment and Scouting. Red flags were being waved over Alexandro Bernabei, Sead Haksabanovic and Yuki Kobayashi.

The two Lawwell transfer windows had gone largely un-noticed following the outstanding successes of Ange Postecoglou’s first two in charge of Celtic.

To say that the recruitment from the summer of 2023 was disastrous is to understate what went on.

One by one the projects were inflicted on Rodgers, when Celtic won the Glasgow Derby on Saturday none of them were involved.

Odin Thiagi Holm, Marco Tilio, Maik Nawrocki, Yang Hyun-jun, Kwon Hyeok-kyu, Gus Lagerbielke and Luis Palma were topped up on Deadline Day with the loan signing of Paulo Bernardo from Benfica.

Rodgers didn’t take long to distance himself from that joblot of projects, Lawwell Mini and his sidekick Joe Dudgeon were sent on Gardening Leave at the start of March- their legacy will drain the wage bill for years to come.

5 minutes 40 seconds

Well, we have to, that’s pretty clear. I am really excited about moving forward and moving into a bright future with the club. This season has been a real challenge and the squad is not as strong as I would like it to have been. What the players have given me until this point has been absolutely brilliant. Our job going forward next year is to be stronger, much stronger. That is something that is well underway.

Further on ( 9 minutes 30 seconds) the Celtic boss went into greater detail

Do you envisage getting business done sooner rather than later in the summer?

I think every coach and manager would like to be able to do that. There are definitely positions that we’d like to have finalised sooner rather than later. Ideally, if we can do that then great, but what’s really important for us this summer is getting the level of quality that I want into the squad.

That will be key for the growth of this team. As I’ve said, the guys in this team have been fantastic this season, but next season we need more depth in the squad. In my past time here, I was going away to Ross County making eight changes. I was bringing into that team [players like] Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Christie – these guys have shown that they’re Premier League quality.

I remember going away to Dubai to our training camp, and, in a proper game, the second team beat the starters 5-0. That gave me great food for thought then when I came back for the second part of the season. It was a proper football game.

That told me the depth that was required and I think that’s something that’s definitely required here because we lost a bit of that in the summer, and no doubt that we’ll need to restructure that going forward. We’ve got some fantastic players here and we want to add to that.

Are you and the likes of Michael Nicholson all on the same page off the pitch?

Every season has to be a learning season on and off the pitch. I’ve gained nothing but support from Michael [Nicholson] and the people here but going forward, the football strategy is very much there in terms of what it is we want to bring in.

It’s not about numbers, it’s about increasing the quality of the squad but that’s for later on, we still have a massive job to do over the next three games.

Rodgers is one point away from delivering the SPFL Premiership title despite the restrictions imposed by the recruitment approved by Nicholson, this summer the CEO can step away from the failings of the past or double down on projects to protect the Balance Sheet and disillusion the manager he convinced that things had changed when he visited Mallorca last year.

CLICK HERE for two faced Keevins makes remarkable Rodgers u-turn

CLICK HERE for Santa Ponsa celebrates Celtic’s victory in the Glasgow Derby.

CLICK HERE for SPFL Premiership table.

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