Belfast Telegraph

My family were deeply upset but I removed emotion to join ambitious Leicester City: Brendan Rodgers explains Celtic departure

Rodgers also confirmed that Leicester were not willing to wait until the summer for his arrival

Brendan Rodgers.
Brendan Rodgers.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Brendan Rodgers has revealed that his decision to leave Celtic was deeply upsetting for his family and friends who support the club.

The Carnlough man was named as the Foxes' new boss on Tuesday, having exited the club that he had cheered on as a boy.

Celtic fans hit out after Rodgers' departure, even revealing a banner at Hearts on Wednesday night declaring that the boss had "traded immortality for mediocrity" and was "never a Celt, always a fraud".

Rodgers admitted that he had seen the banner and heard some of the abuse directed his way but explained that the decision was not made lightly or without impact to the people closest to him.

"It was a very difficult decision," he said, opening his first press conference as Leicester manager. "If I was making it with my heart, I’d be at Celtic for life because it’s an incredible club, one I’ve supported for my life.

"I felt it was time to move on to my next challenge. I've had opportunities to leave in three years at Celtic but this was too good to turn down; to come to the club with the ambition and the infrastructure that allows me to work with a group of players that are young and hungry.

"They have needed stabilising because of the emotions winning the league and of the tragedy earlier on (this season). I felt I could help.

"All of that in the mix - it wasn't easy at all. I've got family who are deeply upset but I have to remove that emotion from my career as a manager. My family have grown up Celtic supporters and many friends."

Rodgers also spoke of his own pain at stepping away from Celtic when on the cusp of the historic treble treble.

"There's real sadness because I've made a host of friends in the club," he said. "The players were amazing for me. Every day they re-enthused me to come in and work with them and they'll continue to have success.

"The staff were fantastic and gave me every chance. The supporters were incredible home and away. I have to remove all of that emotion and think if my journey has finished at Celtic and I have achieved all I can then I have to look elsewhere and that's what I did.

"It was difficult but a decision I made from a career perspective."

Admitting that he had heard it banded about that his move meant Leicester is now a bigger club than Celtic, Rodgers didn't seem to agree.

"Celtic is one of the biggest clubs in world football. You can't deny that and it's one of the reasons I went there," he said.

"In terms of its history, one of the first, 60,000 supporters every week. There's a demand to win that's not matched by many teams in the world.

"For me it's about the challenge of coming back to the Premier League and work against top clubs and coaches. It's a club with that ambition to keep moving forward and progressing - that was a real draw."

Addressing the particulars of that Celtic banner, however, Rodgers hit out at the 'unfair' reference to 'mediocrity' in relation to his new club Leicester City.

"I have obviously seen some of what's been said," he admitted.

"Celtic supporters with hurt and I will understand how they feel. They're hurt and maybe a bit worried about what would have but what also gave me the comfort to leave was that what we put in place would stabilise the club to move forward. John Kennedy is a great coach who steps up (to assistant manager). He knows the fabric, how I've worked and how we've been able to bring success.

"Words, you always have to be careful with. I try not to focus on it too much. I saw the banner. The Celtic supporters were hurting. It's a worldwide fanbase - an incredible support - who gave me everything. There was a moment when there was shock and they were angry. There will be a reality will set in and hopefully the work we did there will be appreciated.

"It's maybe a little unfair on Leicester City. I certainly haven't come to a mediocre club. It's a fantastic club with a real rich history of its own and its recent history has been incredible and they have that ambition to push higher than we are."

Central to the hurt that brought about such a vicious reaction from the Celtic support was Rodgers' mid-season departure and in particular just a few days before a Scottish Cup quarter-final at Hibernian.

"I understand the timing issue," he said. "If there was a time, the ideal time would be the summer. It wasn't something I was looking for. We were very focused after our mid-winter break, playing well, winning. This was an opportunity that arose very quickly and I had a decision that I had to make very quickly. Removing the emotion from that was something that was key. This opportunity wssn't going to wait for me so I had a decision to make.

"The club had to make a decision on where they were at. The intention was to bring someone in permanent. I was there only choice and I had a decision to make. It wouldn't have waited."

Rodgers will take on Watford on Sunday afternoon (kick-off 12 noon) in the Premier League in Rodgers' first match in charge.

Here's Rodgers' first press conference as it happened:

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