Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Football Scottish Celtic

How we changed Celtic stars' mind-set to end Hampden Park hoodoo, reveals Rodgers

 

By Ronnie Esplin

Brendan Rodgers believes Celtic are improving with each Hampden Park appearance as he looks for eight wins in a row at the national stadium against Motherwell tomorrow.

The Ulsterman has been invincible in Mount Florida on seven occasions since he took over the Parkhead club in 2016.

The Hoops had suffered defeats in semi-finals and finals to Ross County, Inverness, St Mirren and Kilmarnock in eight out of 16 visits to Hampden before Rodgers replaced Ronny Deila.

He gave his players a pep talk before his first Hampden appearance, a 1-0 Betfred Cup semi-final win over Rangers in October 2016 before beating Aberdeen 3-0 in the final.

In Celtic's most recent last-four appearance they hammered the Light Blues 4-0 last month and victory over Ulsterman Stephen Robinson's Well will secure an unprecedented successive domestic treble.

"The players gained a huge amount of confidence from the first time that we played here," said Rodgers, who revealed goalkeeper Craig Gordon is available after missing the last three games with a knee injury.

"There was a lot of trepidation around coming to Hampden for whatever reason.

"I think sometimes if players are told something often enough they can believe it a little bit.

"We tried to improve the mind-set of the players going into our first semi-final in the League Cup last season.

"And having gone through that and gone on and not just won the first final here, but to play in the way that we did, it gave the players a lot of confidence and from that each time we have performed really well and arguably getting better.

"The players now have a confidence and I also think that the supporters come with a quiet confidence, that they enjoy watching their team play.

"It was just a constant drip-feed effect on a game-by-game basis.

"If we want to be successful which is the demand at Celtic, then you have to be able to play and win at your national stadium and thankfully the players have done that exceptionally well."

Rodgers' first season in charge saw Celtic win the treble without losing a game but this time there were four defeats on the way to the title. However, the former Liverpool boss is encouraged by his side's propensity to win the games that matter.

"The players have been absolutely fantastic since the day I came in," said Rodgers.

"We have pushed them all the way every day in training.

"I looked at them again this morning and they are not saving themselves, they are intent, they are focused and they take that into the games.

"You hear lots of talk around these games, saying it is the team that wants it more.

"Finals are about a wee bit more than that. Everyone wants to win but you have to have that emotional control in order to play football.

"You have to be physical, you've got to compete but you have to be able to play your game and that is something that the players have done here very well, in all the semi-finals and finals that they have played."

Tom Rogic has signed a new five-year deal that ties him to the Ladbrokes Premiership champions until 2023.

The 25-year-old played a key role as the Hoops secured a seventh successive title this season.

Rogic, who is set to represent Australia at the World Cup, had been linked with a summer move away from Celtic Park.

Rogic said: "I feel great to have signed a new contract. I'm very proud and honoured to be able to commit my future to the club.

"I enjoy playing regular football here. I'm working under a top class manager and to play my club football here is something that's very special to me so I couldn't be happier to have signed a new contract."

Celtic

Motherwell

Scottish Cup Final:

Hampden Park, Tomorrow, 3.00 pm

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph