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Comment: Why Steven Gerrard's Rangers revolution spells trouble in Paradise for Rodgers

By Julian Taylor in the Sunday Life

There was a touch of stating the obvious about it, but Charlie Nicholas could have been, ironically, referring to the wrong manager.

The former Celtic pin-up was describing how impressed he was with Rangers’ capture of Steven Gerrard, and that his “dark, brooding presence” is exactly what the Ibrox club needs if they are to halt 10-in-a-row across Glasgow.

That kind of intensity, while clearly what the Gers require right now and yielding some quite impressive fare so far, is probably more of an accurate summary of Brendan Rodgers’ mood.

Although Celtic swept aside newly-promoted Livingston in the first act of their Premiership defence before a 1-1 Champions League qualifying home draw against AEK Athens, everything isn’t quite so rosy.

Not the sort of acrimony to end in a full-blown divorce between the club and Rodgers — well, not yet anyway — but sufficient friction to leave Celtic supporters hugely concerned. And if the Hoops find they can’t handle the heat in Greece against AEK then the pitchforks will be getting sharpened.

It’s the age old Celtic story, really — lack of major investment from a position of strength and hoping, somehow, they can get away with not spending extensively, even though the club had not legislated for Gerrard’s arrival at Ibrox.

No wonder it’s a worry for the Celts, because what has been obvious already is that Rangers are now attracting better players because of the profile of their new boss.

Not a cartload of Aberdeen also-rans and a current SPFL player of the month if Derek McInnes had been appointed last term, but rather fledgling Croatia internationals and quality players with English Premier League pedigrees. 

Night and day — and illustrated during the second half of Rangers’ superb 3-1 Europa League third round qualifying, first leg victory at home to NK Maribor on Thursday.

Consequently, all this deep surgery being carried out in haste by Gerrard must have a few at Parkhead twitching.

Celtic remain the better side — to be expected, given how settled Rodgers’ main stars are — but the Carnlough man was in uncharacteristically anxious mood during a press conference last week.

The manager has cash to spend, but you feel he is increasingly worn out having to justify to the boardroom how it can be used. Having become accustomed to dominance of Scottish football, Celtic’s threatened slide into complacency, and failure to share Rodgers’ ambition, could see the irritated Ulsterman walk.

Undoubtedly, Celtic’s arrogance over the John McGinn fiasco, where the Scotland midfielder snubbed his boyhood favourites for Aston Villa, has angered manager Rodgers.

McGinn was on a plate for Celtic. Promising, with a good temperament and a lethal left foot, the 23-year-old was nailed on to become the obvious replacement for Scott Brown.

Yet Celtic wasted both Hibernian and the player’s time, assuming that they could grab McGinn cheaply because he is a Hoops fan.

Those days are long gone.

Modern players know their worth and will invariably make objective, professional  decisions, particularly when they are young and on the up.

It is also concerning for Celtic fans that McGinn chose his next career move in the English Championship, rather than in Glasgow, where he could relish the platform of Champions League football. Assuming, of course, Celtic don’t wilt in Athens.

Bringing back Emilio Izaguirre to boost squad numbers isn’t going to stop fans worrying that maybe Rodgers has decided he has reached a plateau at Parkhead and can still press the eject button while his stock remains high. ‘Terminado’, as he put it.

There does, though, remain time before the transfer window shuts for Celtic’s board to start taking heed, even if they did fork out £9m for Odsonne Edouard. Then again, the club banked £7m for Stuart Armstrong’s sale to Southampton.

The fact is, if Celtic paid what McGinn was worth — they could easily have eclipsed the £3m Villa eventually paid — then a fine midfielder would now be up and running in the Hoops.

Meanwhile, Rodgers knows Gerrard is looming.

Therefore, Celtic face a stark choice — ambition or self-satisfaction. If it’s the latter, then it’s only a matter of time before things turn dark and stormy.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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