Brendan Rodgers move to Leicester was all about rejoining the Premier League nouveau riche, but his eagerness to leave Celtic in the lurch will haunt him, writes Desmond Kane.
A preserve of the rich funded by the poor. Football is no longer a sport about winning trophies, but rather about scrambling up life’s greasy pole to England’s Premier League. If you can make it there, you don’t need to make it anywhere.
Once you've touched down, you reach a soulless pit of excess and largesse where you can quickly get your snout in the trough. A green and unpleasant land where clubs are run by faceless billionaires from overseas, propped up by ludicrous television contracts and exploit their fans, large swathes of working-class people struggling to make ends meet.
The national sport pokes fun at proles in the Premier League. England’s football league provides a better way of life because it reminds people of a better, more innocent time in the national sport.
When you reach the summit in England, fans become lost, clubs dislocated from their communities and players and their managers disturbed by delusions of grandeur. It has been this way for some time, but now and again it throws up another depressing and blatant example of phonies clearly on the make.
Brendan Rodgers has taken over at Leicester.
Image credit: Eurosport
It has been quite amusing reading some of the opinion pieces about Brendan Rodgers leaving the Scottish champions Celtic to join Leicester City with the Glasgow club’s season well and truly in the balance. As if Rodgers departing the scene was based on some sort of logical value system to better himself. As if.
As a kid you are brought up on the Corinthian values of sport being about winning trophies. What aspiring manager in their right mind would walk out on any club chasing a historic "treble treble" in any respectable league, the tangible possibility of nine straight domestic prizes? Which fan in their right mind would walk out on their boyhood club that they deemed to be their “dream job” less than a year ago?
"There is not a place I could be in this world right now where I’d be happier in my football life and personal life,” said Rodgers in April 2017.
This is Celtic - this is one of the great, iconic clubs of the world.
As always don’t look for what a man says, but what he does. Forget players like Paolo Di Canio representing Celtic, Brendan might well be the highest profile and most unfortunate example of a badge-kissing manager in football.
Celtic are chasing three Scottish titles, three Scottish Cups and three Scottish League Cups in successive seasons. It is an extraordinary feat made possible by the excellent work of Rodgers, his players and the support of the club’s board.
Rodgers is more to be pitied than scorned because his lucrative wanderlust has taken a flame thrower to his legacy at Celtic after producing a disappearing act more ludicrous than Wonga, the root of the problem in this episode.
Borne out of ignorance and a lack of appreciation about what goes into performing sport at the elite levels, some Premier League apologists have claimed Rodgers made the move because he was bored with life at Celtic. Yet for the previous two-and-a-half years, it was all that consumed him?
They are all missing the point. Nobody said Rodgers was not right to seek a fresh challenge after three years, but there is a decorum to adhere to. If he had decided to go during the summer, he would have been saturated by the goodwill of the masses in Glasgow's East End. Even if he failed in his triple quest, he was almost certainly contributing an eighth gong towards Celtic's pursuit of a record tenth straight title in Scotland.
His decision to leave Celtic, one of the "world’s biggest clubs" and the first British winners of the European Cup as he has repeatedly pointed out, to join a Leicester City side flat-lining in 12th place in the Premier League was only about him. It was the choice of a cynical, calculating careerist, making the decision based on the money. Harsh? Well, in the balance of probabilities, nothing else makes for a convincing argument when you examine his own soundbites. A move from Celtic to Leicester is not one step down, but several steps down in modern football's game of snakes and ladders
"I was born into Celtic. It’s a huge privilege to manage this club,” he said after claming the second straight treble last May. "I was born into it and we have created something which hopefully allows us to build on this."
His Gielgudian performance over the past few days has been enough to make any football fan vomit because it was so disingenuous in trying to justify the discrepancies of his words and actions. Would Leicester fans have saluted Claudio Ranieri if he walked out on them with 12 games to go when they were chasing their own piece of history as Premier League winners as 5,000-1 long shots in 2016?
Rodgers will apparently pick up £7m a year at Leicester which equates to £140,000-a-week. It is enough to turn the head of even a multi-millionaire such as Rodgers if you are a member of the nouveau riche.
There is no hard evidence to suggest the Premier League is more entertaining than any other top league despite the hyperbole. Rodgers should have said he could not wait to escape Scottish football because he did not want to take the risk of missing out on the lolly by holding off to the summer.
It had nothing to do with the financial straitjacket of Scottish football because his remit when he arrived in Glasgow was not to be a cheque book manager, but to improve youngsters.
Rodgers is obviously not driven by the romance of the role. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your portfolio, but be honest with the fans who you claimed to be one of. The lack of true progress with Celtic in Europe will mean nothing at Leicester. If he finishes seventh in the Premier League, that should be enough to stave off the sack next season.
A Celtic fans hands out Brendan Rodgers manager of Celtic masks outside the stadium prior to the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox Stadium on September 23, 2017.
Image credit: Eurosport
Leicester have as much chance of winning the Premier League again as Rodgers has of earning redemption among Celtic fans. Or Watford fans, who witnessed the Northern Irishman pull off a similar stunt a decade ago when Reading apparently offered him greater riches. Vicarage Road certainly let Rodgers know their feelings when the home side completed a 2-1 win over Leicester on Sunday.
Forgiveness in football is a thorny issue. Celtic fans have been sold down the river even if they gripe about their club's board. They will move on from Rodgers, but they will not forget how he abandoned the club in a potentially parlous situation with a trip to Hearts in the Scottish Premiership and a visit to Hibernian in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals, both of which were won in spite of their departed coach.
Anyone familiar with the nuanced challenge of Scottish football will appreciate the potentially hazardous nature of such fraught evenings.
Rodgers’ claim that he had taken Celtic as far as he could only fits his own narrative when there was two trophies yet to win in the death throes, and most vital months of a season.
Former Celtic striker Chris Sutton continues to air his disbelief while the former Leicester manager Ian Holloway believes Rodgers will regret his actions in the future. Timing has damaged Rodgers, and time will not heal this short-term act of self-interest.
Jose Mourinho, not exactly football's greatest harbinger of moral rectitude, lamented Rodgers’ conduct as ill advised.
From his personal point of view, Rodgers can do no wrong at Leicester. If he gets sacked, he gets a huge pay-off coming down the line. If he manages to break the ceiling of the top six, or win a trophy at Leicester, he could be headhunted by a larger concern. The end game is not Leicester. Which is a pretty depressing thought if you get your kicks at the King Power.
Manage at haste, repent at leisure. Or Leicester. For a rich man, Rodgers' decision-making is at best morally questionable and at worst morally bankrupt.
Yet perhaps entirely in keeping with a sport stained and fatally wounded by the repugnant smell of new money.