Sutton: Rodgers' brave Celtic return has paid off but work to do

Brendan Rodgers’ “brave decision” to return to Celtic has paid off but he still has something to prove, says Chris Sutton.

Questions were asked when the Northern Irishman returned to Glasgow last summer to replace Ange Postecoglou, just over four years after he quit the club for Leicester City.

After early League Cup disappointment, he has delivered the Scottish Premiership title and could add the Scottish Cup when the Hoops face Rangers in the final on May 25.

Sutton, who won four league titles during a six-year spell at Celtic, believes Rodgers has work to do despite proving many critics wrong.

“I don’t think it’s his best title win. The invincible season was incredible,” said the Sky Sports pundit.

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A look at some of the best goals Celtic have scored in the Scottish Premiership this season

“I admire him. At the start of the season, there were a fair few Celtic fans sceptical about his return and I understand that because of the way that he left.

“He was really brave to come back and courageous to do that because it could have gone wrong this season.

“The important thing was coming back and winning the league and he’s done that.

“During the season Celtic have had injury issues, never really replaced Jota, but in the end it’s about finishing first. It’s pretty much job done on Brendan’s return.”

European impact

ROME, ITALY - NOVEMBER 28: Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi looks dejected after his shot at goal goes wide during a UEFA Champions League group stage match between S.S. Lazio and Celtic at Stadio Olimpico, on November 28, 2023, in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Celtic finished bottom of their Champions League group

It was another disappointing Champions League campaign for Celtic after automatic qualification to the group stage.

They finished bottom of Group E with four defeats, one draw and a win against Feyenoord in their final match.

Sutton insists Rodgers will know the supporters expect better when they enter the revamped competition next season.

“The supporters want to see the team challenge or make a better fist of European competition,” he said.

“This season, you have to say it was a disappointment. It was quite a gentle group Celtic were in in the Champions League, and to end up finishing bottom was unacceptable.

Luis Palma fired Celtic in front from the penalty spot
Celtic’s only Champions League win was against Feyenoord

“I think that the club sat on their hands when they won the league last season. They had time to plan and weren’t ready for the Champions League.

“Without being too negative I think that was pretty much unforgivable.

“Celtic fans want to see their team competing in Europe again so that will be the next challenge. The rest of this season, it’s about making sure you win the Scottish Cup again.”

Squad investment

Matt O'Riley celebrates after scoring to make it 3-2 to Celtic
Matt O’Riley could leave Celtic this summer, while Adam Idah’s loan deal ends

Many of Celtic’s signings since Rodgers’ return have failed to make an impact, with the supporters demanding action to help compete in Europe.

While Sutton expects investment this summer he also insists there needs to be some realism from the fans.

“First and foremost he has to hang on to the best players – Matt O’Riley, Reo Hatate and Cameron Carter-Vickers. I’m sure there will be suitors and people looking at them as they’ve been the outstanding performers,” he said.

“I think Brendan Rodgers last time here had some success in the early days with his recruitment, the likes of Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair coming in, and it’s always crucial to try and get on the right side of that.

Ange Postecoglou had the advantage of knowing that J-League well and was very shrewd in terms of the players who he brought in and Celtic weren’t spending daft money.

“It’s very, very difficult for Celtic and Rangers to compete in the transfer market. They can’t buy ready-made, tried-and-tested, been-there-done-it players.

“There’s always an element of buying a development player, but Brendan’s said he’s happy coaching development players and bringing them on.

“We have to be realistic. However big a club Celtic is, that’s their model. But, of course, winning is important as well and making a better fist of Europe is important. This season was a disappointment in that respect, so it’s about making progress.”

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