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No red faces this time, now Brendan Rodgers must be backed by Celtic board

By Steven Beacom

Crisis averted. Relief for Brendan Rodgers. Celtic are in the next qualifying round of the Champions League. There were no nasty surprises for the Bhoys at Parkhead last night to follow last week's shock of Gibraltar.

The second leg 3-0 victory was as easy for the Glasgow outfit as the first was embarrassing when part-timers Lincoln Red Imps defeated the famous Hoops 1-0.

That result will forever be in the history books, but it won't seem so painful now.

First half goals from Mikael Lustig, Leigh Griffiths and Patrick Roberts eased any concerns for the Celtic fans and although there were no more strikes after the break, it was job done against the determined visitors who enjoyed their time in the sun.

To think all is suddenly glorious in the Celtic garden, however, would be as ridiculous as believing Sam Allardyce will win the next World Cup for England.

The truth is the current squad of players does not possess the quality required for a club of Celtic's standing.

In the past couple of years, with Rangers out of the Scottish Premiership equation and Ronny Deila in charge, the Hoops were allowed to drift with limited investment and even less inspiration.

And for all of Rodgers' self belief and coaching ability there is no guarantee that his new team will reach the money spinning group stages of the Champions League.

What the Carnlough native did in guiding Swansea into the Premier League was remarkable and although his reign at Liverpool ended in disappointing fashion, he did almost lead the Reds to their first championship since 1990.

It's also worth noting that had he not taken over at Parkhead in May, right now the FA would be preparing to unveil him as England's new manager such is the esteem he is held in down south amongst the bigwigs.

Rodgers could do a fine job in Glasgow, but while he is confident that his work on the training ground will improve Celtic's players, he needs more tools to build a side the supporters can be proud of. That means the Bhoys in the boardroom backing him with cash and recruiting players who are better than those already there.

Republic of Ireland defender Shane Duffy will enhance the panel but he should only be the start. Midfield needs strengthening and Rodgers would love to add creativity further forward to his plans for domestic dominance, with a fired-up Rangers back on the scene, and highly-charged Champions League nights at Parkhead against Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Manchester City.

There are still two more rounds to negotiate before the Northern Ireland man can start dreaming about that. Astana from Kazakhstan are next. It's a dangerous tie. Unlike Celtic, Astana made it into the group stages of Europe's elite club competition last season.

Belfast Telegraph


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