WITH Swansea declining the services of Brendan Rodgers during week, the gates of Paradise have widened.
Celtic and Liverpool share much in common; the two vast supports come from the same social and cultural fabric, we have also shared the much-loved Kenny Dalglish – a genuine Celtic hero who became a Liverpool legend.
Few could forget when Celtic put a collective arm around the Liverpool support – whole families left the north-west of England for a Hillsborough memorial match (on April 30, 1989) that was one of the most emotional days in both of our histories.
Neither club will ever forget the scenes of supporters walking the streets towards the ground arm-in-arm.
Last month, Celtic celebrated the 50th anniversary of their first competitive meeting with Liverpool.
The games in the European Cup Winners’ Cup of April 1966 were the catalyst for a friendship which has now lasted half a century. In front of 80,000 people, Celtic dominated the first game of a two-legged tie, securing a 1-0 victory.
The second game, won 2-0 by Liverpool, was more controversial when a vital away goal scored by Bobby Lennox was denied, shutting down Celtic’s progress.
In the same month Celtic played Liverpool in Europe, The Beatles recorded ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ as they moved pop music into exhilarating new territory.
Jock Stein wasn’t inhibited when it came to breaking new ground either. During a short spell as manager of Hibernian, many were sceptical when he brought Real Madrid to Edinburgh for a challenge match in 1964.
The move was ridiculed by the Scottish press, who believed the European giants of football would murder Hibs. It was the kind of atmosphere Stein relished, and the emerald greens gave fans a night to remember.
Many of the Leith club’s players had posters of Gento and Puskas on their bedroom walls, but that night they would cement their own place as heroes, beating the then five-time European Cup winners 2-0.
Stein enjoyed dispelling negativity by those who dared to impose limitations upon him. Just over a year on from the Liverpool game he would win the European Cup with a Celtic team famously described by Hugh Mcllvanney as a “Glasgow and district select”.
Less than a week later, The Beatles would release Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The cities of Liverpool and Glasgow contributed much to 20th century popular culture. The architects of the clubs we know today were created by Jock Stein and Bill Shankly.
Those men had been defined by a code of conduct deployed by Scotland’s mining community. The harsh realities of that working life demanded that you search for the humanity in your fellow man, putting differences to one side by creating a sense of camaraderie and unity. It was literally a matter of life and death and they realised it working underground.
In recent weeks, new candidates for the Celtic manager’s position at Celtic Park have emerged like jockeys thundering towards the finishing line at Ayr. Brendan Rodgers has previously talked-up his formative years supporting Celtic, citing great men such as Danny McGrain and Tommy Burns as heroes and influences.
A key aspect about what Rodgers defines as valuable is not just their ability in the game, but their temperament in daily life. In 2011, Rodgers told one reporter that Tommy Burns had been a major influence on his time as a player when Burns was manager at Reading. “He had time for everyone and made me see you can be a good guy and a good coach. We’d talk for hours. When I was at Chelsea I would visit him.”
Rodgers has also spoke of an ambition to one day manage a football club in the East End of Glasgow. Now that the position is vacant, he has been more cautious, but no less reverential describing them as one of the “great iconic clubs in the world”.
It’s been observed that Rodgers often talks about the need for “character” in his players. It would also be a key requirement for the incoming Celtic manager. In the best possible way, Stein and Shankly ran Celtic and Liverpool as benevolent dictatorships.
Players and fans were motivated to the point of near combustion while bursting with civic pride for team, club and the wider community. Both men asked a lot of people, but it created an invincible feeling around the clubs.
Rodgers, like Stein, looked around at cutting edge football innovation elsewhere in Europe and as a student of the game he learned much under the guidance of Jose Mourino while at Chelsea.
Luis Suarez suggested Rodgers ‘educated me to become successful’ citing the Spanish influence on a Liverpool side that came within touching distance of a Premier League title just two years ago.
That second-placed side scored a remarkable 101 goals in a season that also granted Rodgers the LMA Manager of the Year Award, voted for by his fellow professionals.
It’s easy to be dazzled by what’s currently happening at Liverpool, finalists in this season’s Europa League, but it shouldn’t diminish what Rodgers achieved. The democratising effect of the internet and social media can diminish the credibility of managers within minutes.
Sometimes it’s men with something valuable to contribute not just to the game but wider society. It is perplexing that Roy Keane has suddenly emerged as a contender to take over as Celtic manager, particularly since he rejected the job two years ago.
Are Celtic offering a him a better deal now? Does Keane now have the right temperament for the job? Does he have the ability to take the club back into the Champions League, a position secured twice under Neil Lennon?
Last week, Peter Lawwell gave an interview to The Herald suggesting a new Celtic manager will be appointed within a fortnight. He also rubbished claims that he had any involvement in picking the current team, but rumours in Glasgow are so rife he was forced to enter into a dialogue on the subject.
Last month, Dermot Desmond found himself moving up a notch to fourth place in The Sunday Times 250 Richest in Ireland list. He is estimated to be worth around £1.5billion.
Mr Desmond has to absorb the fact that Celtic is a club in need of a serious manager who will need the right financial incentive to join the club. If this fails to happen, it will become too much of sickner for fans to cope with.
A recent Green Brigade banner sent a strong message to the board. “Lawwell and Desmond’s Legacy, Empty Jerseys, Empty Hearts, Empty Dreams, Empty Stands.”
Another banner offered “From boardroom to dressing room; you’ve embarrassed yourselves.” Celtic fans have high expectation – it all began just over 50 years ago with a team Brendan Rodgers might describe as having “character” and arguably the greatest manager the British game has ever known.
These are the standards, Mr Desmond.