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I love the Premier League but I've found happiness at Celtic: Brendan Rodgers

 

By Laure James

Brendan Rodgers has brushed off "flattering" suggestions he's Arsenal's number one target to succeed Arsene Wenger and has opened up about suffering life-changing bereavement.

The Celtic boss says his happiness is now what matters most, insisting that comes ahead of a potential big-money return to the Premier League.

"It's nice people think you can manage clubs of that esteem," the Carnlough man told the Mail on Sunday.

"If you're happy, ultimately that's all that matters. The money's irrelevant. You can have x-amount of pounds in your bank every month but if you're not finding peace in what you're doing, it doesn't really matter.

"I love the Premier League, there are great challenges. But there are arms and legs flying off managers down there.

"My genuine love is improving people and making them better, helping the club improve. Or do you go somewhere where you might have six games? That wouldn't make me happy.

"I'm in a position where I'm in my dream job. As a guy from Northern Ireland who supported Celtic and worked in football, I'm living my dream here. I want to work through until I'm 60 and get to a thousand games and I probably know I won't do the other 500-odd games here at Celtic.

"I know how quickly it can all change. I nearly won the title at Liverpool and everybody's saying, 'sign him up', then very quickly I was out. Now I stay calm with it and never be complacent."

Having lifted the Scottish League Cup this season and guided his troops to the treble during the last campaign, Rodgers has become idolised by Celtic fans - as much for his down-to-earth and approachable demeanour, as for his consistent success.

Yet amid the reverence, Rodgers has survived crushing lows from which he emerged a better person and father. The tragedy of losing his parents left Rodgers heartbroken, yet reflective, revealing it as a wake-up call.

"Before I got the Liverpool job, I lost both my parents in quick succession. My mum was 53 and died on February 3, 2010.

"That summer, I got the Swansea job and my dad became ill. In November 2010, he was diagnosed with throat cancer and, less than a year later, he died.

"You really reflect on mortality then in your life. I was looking at myself and thinking, 'I don't want to die this young, I have my own children'. This probably happens to many people.

"Just because you are a football manager, it doesn't make you any different."

Rodgers went through a period of reinvention, prioritising his health and his children, and becoming an ambassador for the Northern Ireland Hospice.

With his whitened teeth and svelte appearance, however, critics mocked his supposed self-absorption.

"Losing them was a tough moment," he added.

"I was thinking, 'Died at 53, died at 59, I don't want to go down this route. So I've got to get healthy. I've got to be presentable. I've got to change'. That's when I lost three stone.

"I wanted to be around as long as I possibly could for my own children.

"The stuff people said didn't bother me. You have to laugh. I was going through a divorce and anyone who is going through that will tell you the difficulties of it. I had lost my parents."

Looking forward, Rodgers accepts there will be a time when he'll have served Celtic as best he can. "Between the club and I, we will look at it and see where we're at.

"I have to do the best with the resources we have here. That's not a lack of ambition. That's me at a club where I have a sense of happiness every day."

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