Glasgow (AFP) – Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers will return to his roots as he looks to his youth players to help his side through a busy month domestically and in Europe.
The Scottish champions return to action on Friday following the international break when they travel to take on Hamilton at New Douglas Park.
It is a measure of the success of Rodgers’ side that a large number of his players were involved in the recent World Cup qualifiers with six of the Scotland starting XI in the wins against Lithuania and Malta being drawn from the Hoops squad.
However, with seven games in 22 days – including the first Old Firm clash of the season as well as tough Champions League fixtures against Paris Saint-Germain and Anderlecht – the Celtic boss will look to utilise his squad in order to keep his top stars fresh.
The Northern Irishman has already shown he isn’t afraid of giving youth its chance in the first team.
Last month against Kilmarnock Rodgers fielded a side with a starting line-up that had an average age of under 23 and included five graduates of Celtic’s youth academy.
Rodgers takes a keen interest in the youth set-up at Parkhead having started his career as a youth coach at Reading before joining Chelsea as youth manager.
And Celtic’s own head of youth football, Chris McCart, says it is Rodgers’ background that ensures young players will always get a chance at the Glasgow giants.
“It definitely helps that he was a youth coach. He’s got empathy with every academy coach whether they are doing seven a side football, or five a side and no matter what age group,” McCart said of the Celtic boss.
“He started off as an under nine coach, worked his way through and educated himself in different areas away from football.
“He is putting a lot of work in and is now starting to select the ones he thinks are ready and is prepared to put them in at vital times.
“The manager has been clear in communicating his philosophy, and he wants a similar pattern running all the way from the academy to the first team.
“He wanted a connection and let the youth coaches know they could knock on his door. It’s happened a lot and they feel comfortable with that.”
Rodgers’ counterpart at Rangers, Pedro Caixinha, will get back to his day job again after delivering a series of lectures at the University of Lisbon during the international break.
The 46-year-old was talking to students attending a special postgraduate course for football coaches devised by Professor Antonio Veloso and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.
The Rangers fans will be hoping the Portuguese manager is able to communicate his ideas to his own players after the Ibrox club’s shaky start to the season. The Gers host Dundee on Saturday having taken just seven points from their opening four games.
Elsewhere, Craig Levein faces a tough task as he starts his second spell in charge of Hearts with a match against an Aberdeen side that are the only team left with a 100 per cent record in the top flight.
Fixtures (1500 unless otherwise stated)
Hamilton v Celtic (1945)
Hearts v Aberdeen
Motherwell v Kilmarnock
Rangers v Dundee
Ross County v Partick Thistle
St Johnstone v Hibernian
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