Deluded Brendan fluffs his lines on opening night with Celtic

It took just 90 minutes for two months of optimism to be spectacularly punctured as Brendan Rodgers’ first game in charge of Celtic ended with the most humiliating result in their proud 128-year history.

And insult was added to injury when Rodgers insisted that the 1-0 defeat to Gibraltar’s Lincoln Red Imps in the Champions League second qualifying round had been “no embarrassment”.

Fans were hoping that these words had come from the parody Twitter account @DeludedBrendan but, unfortunately, the new Celtic boss had embarrassed himself with a quote that could haunt him for years to come.


Rodgers stopped short of saying that the Celtic players had shown ‘great character’ but he instantly heaped scorn upon himself by refusing to acknowledge the scale of this defeat on the psyche of a support worn down by three years of falling standards. If this was not embarrassing, you have to wonder what it would require to make Rodgers blush.

The worst fears of the Celtic fans will now be that the Rodgers they have signed is the one that had a poor first and final season at Liverpool rather than the one who almost led the Reds to their first English title in 23 years in 2014.

When Ronny Deila announced that he would leave Celtic at the end of the 2015-16 campaign, following a year of regression, speculation was rife about the identity of the next manager.

Most of the names being bandied around were met with little optimism but the eventual unveiling of Rodgers was seen as quite a coup.

Sure, his CV has failures as well as successes but high level experience with top players was seen as something that would draw in some big-name signings and it was assumed that he would kick out the underachievers.

However, the first notes of concern came when rumours emerged that Rodgers was quite keen on Efe Ambrose, the Nigerian defender whose catastrophic blunders have cost Celtic dearly over the past four years.

Most fans are eager to see the back of Ambrose, but there he was in Celtic’s starting line-up in Gibraltar.

But Ambrose was not the only guilty party. Israeli midfielder Nir Bitton – tipped for a big move down south at this time last year – had a miserable 2015-16 campaign and his lacklustre performance here demonstrated why.

The writing was on the wall for skipper Scott Brown last season and his display in Gibraltar showed just why Rodgers must find a replacement.

Brown has been a fine servant in his nine years at the club but the years and the injuries have taken their toll and the 31-year-old is now short of the standard his club require to move forward.

The supremely gifted Australian midfielder Tom Rogic remains an unfulfilled talent and did nothing to suggest that this will be the season when he becomes Celtic’s main man.

New signing Moussa Dembele will need time but did not impress in his 74 minutes on the pitch, while Rodgers appears ready to give Turkish striker Nadir Ciftci another chance despite a poor debut season that resulted in him being loaned out in January.

The star of the second-half of last season, Patrick Roberts, was bafflingly left on the bench when his skill and energy could have unpicked the lock.

An inferior winger in James Forrest, who turned down a new deal at the club in January, came on and convinced the fans that he might be better off elsewhere.


In all likelihood, Rodgers’ side will turn things around next week and seal their place in the third qualifying round. But they will then face a far superior team to the Red Imps.

Some came to the defence of Rodgers and highlighted that previous Celtic managers have struggled in Europe in their first competitive matches.

Gordon Strachan famously saw his side lose 5-0 at Artmedia Bratislava in 2005 before almost sensationally retrieving the situation with a 4-0 win in Glasgow.

Less than 18 months later, his team beat Manchester United at Celtic Park to clinch a place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

But Artmedia proved they were no mugs in the group stage that year and they were at least champions of Slovakia and not Gibraltar.

The Guardian hurriedly put together a list of Celtic’s worst ever results in Europe, which rather absurdly included a 3-0 defeat to Ajax in 1971, but nothing can compare to this.

It has made news across the continent and the whole country has been having fun at Rodgers’ ‘no embarrassment’ comment.

Rodgers has time to make his mark on the former European champions and one shocking result may be the wake-up call required to let him know just how much work has to be done.

Nothing more than a resounding victory at Celtic Park will do next week and Rodgers can help himself by changing things around on the pitch to make it look as if he has learned something.

And, just as importantly, he would do well to demonstrate a little more understanding of what the most humiliating defeat in the club’s history means to the fans. Embarrassment doesn’t come close to describing it.

The Author

Paul Murphy

Paul Murphy is an independent football writer based in Bangkok. He was formerly a freelance sports sub-editor with UK newspapers, including the Sunday Express and Metro. He now writes regularly for ESPN's South East Asia blog about Thai football and writes a monthly column for Hat-Trick magazine in Thailand.

3 thoughts on “Deluded Brendan fluffs his lines on opening night with Celtic

  1. Did they no just knock out the Slovenian champions? Slovakia/Slovenia?

    Agree with the very bad result, but only 1-0 at half time (goal disallowed and 2 off the bar).

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