Glasgow (AFP) – If Brendan Rodgers had wondered about the size of the task that lies in front of him at Celtic then last week’s 1-0 defeat to Gibraltar part-timers Lincoln Red Imps would have left him in no doubt.
When the former Liverpool boss was paraded at Parkhead back in May as the high-profile replacement to Ronny Deila it was a signal from the board Celtic would be getting down to serious business again to coincide with the return of bitter rivals Rangers to the Scottish top flight.
Instead, the “Bhoys” have started their season in the worst possible of fashions as they suffered a humiliating defeat against a side that contained just five full-time professionals alongside a customs officer, a fireman, a policeman and a taxi driver.
The shock in Gibraltar, arguably the club’s worst ever result, came in Rodgers’ first competitive game in charge.
Before the match against the Imps, the self-declared Celtic supporter spoke of his pride of taking charge of the former European champions for the first time in their Champions League second-round qualifier.
However, Lee Casciaro’s second-half goal condemned Rodgers to the most embarrassing defeat of his career, despite what he said to the contrary at full-time.
“There is no embarrassment. We understand what we need to get to for what we want to achieve,” he said.
“We didn’t take our chances, they took their chance.
“It was a game we dominated and had enough chances to score. Sometimes it can happen.”
While that may be the case, Rodgers knows his side’s performance will count for nothing with the directors who made him the highest-paid manager in Scottish football history if the Hoops crash out of European competition at the first hurdle.
Outside of the Old Firm fixtures, European performances will be the yardstick by which Rodgers is judged, with Champions League qualification defeats against Malmo, Maribor and Legia Warsaw casting a heavy shadow over predecessor Deila’s two years in charge.
The humbling defeat to the Imps came just 20 days after Celtic started their pre-season training but the manager insisted his side had prepared properly and hadn’t underestimated the minnows.
– ‘No panic’ –
If not complacency, then the result can maybe be explained by the fact the Celtic boss has been slow to stamp his authority on the club, with Rodgers making just one addition to the imbalanced squad he inherited.
However, he believes the current crop are good enough to get through in the second leg on Wednesday — but admitted he will need to make changes if they are to have any hopes of getting near the Champions League group stages.
“It’s one that was always the case. We know where we need to strengthen the squad.
“It’s obviously disappointment straight after when you lose a game like that.
“But no panic. We know the quality we need to get in to help the side.
“In the meantime we have enough quality to get through the tie.”
Big things are expected from the man who took Liverpool to the verge of their first title win in over 20 years.
However, he was also the first manager not to have won a trophy in three full seasons in charge since the 1950s and was sacked in October last year after taking responsibility for failure at Anfield.
Celtic fans must hope he has spent his time out of the game learning from his mistakes.