Celtic were still celebrating their eighth domestic treble when news broke that manager Ange Postecoglou was Tottenham bound. With his departure quickly confirmed, Celtic fans turned their attention to who might replace the popular Australian figure. Names such as Kjetil Knutsen and Enzo Maresca popped up as the early favourites while West Ham boss David Moyes was also in contention.
Another (rather less popular contender) was Brendan Rodgers who had been out of work since leaving Leicester. The reason that few Celtic fans wanted former Hoops boss Rodgers back was not that he performed badly during his first stint, far from it; it was more the nature of his departure. Much of the Bhoys’ faithful could not forgive the Northern Irishman for leaving at such a key point in the 2018/19 season. Celtic were aiming for a historic ‘treble treble’ while Leicester were virtually guaranteed a mid-table finish. As such, they could not understand why Rodgers could not have waited a couple of months before moving down south.
So, Rodgers will face an uphill battle to win over the support of the Celtic fanbase during his second stint in charge, but he is no stranger to facing challenges. As the 50-year-old returns to Scotland ahead of the 2023/24 season, let us look back at his managerial career and how his journey has seen him wind up back at Celtic Park.
Although Rodgers spent a couple of years managing Chelsea reserves, his first senior gig came when taking the reins at Watford. Despite reaching the play-offs the season prior, the Hornets found themselves as early relegation contenders following a dismal start to the campaign. The sale of key players was part of the reason for this but boss Aidy Boothroyd took much of the blame. Wanting to take the club in a different direction, Watford opted for the up-and-coming 35-year-old Rodgers, accompanied by Frank Lampard Snr.
The gamble of hiring such an inexperienced name seemed to have backfired initially, with Rodgers winning just two of his first 10 league games. The Northern Irishman turned things around after this though and guided Watford to a 13th-place finish, 12 points clear of relegation.
By finishing the season strongly at Watford, Rodgers did plenty to boost his reputation. So much so that he caught the attention of Reading, who had just finished fourth in the Championship. With Steve Coppell resigning after the play-off defeat, the Royals swooped in for Rodgers, paying an initial £500k in compensation, rising to £1m.
Promotion to the Premier League was the main goal for Reading ahead of the 2009/10 season but they looked a long way from top-flight quality under Rodgers. The Northern Irishman really struggled, winning just two of his opening 14 league matches. To be fair to the Reading board, they did give Rodgers more time but with no huge improvements spotted, the pair agreed to part ways on 16th December.
With his spell at Reading rather disastrous by all accounts, Rodgers must have been wondering when his next job was going to come. In the summer of 2010 though, he ended up receiving a couple of offers. One was to join Roberto Mancini’s coaching staff at Man City while the other was to take charge at Swansea. Not willing to give up being on a manager just yet, Rodgers opted for the latter and put pen to paper on 16th July 2010.
It was his spell at Swansea that helped the Carnlough-born manager really make a name for himself. In his first season in charge, Rodgers guided the Swans to the Premier League via the play-offs. The play-off final saw him face former club Reading but the six-goal thriller went in favour of the Welsh side. This in itself was a fantastic achievement but not a huge over-performance given that Swansea finished one-point from the play-offs the season prior.
You cannot argue, however, that Swansea did not massively exceed all expectations the following season. As the 4/7 favourites to go down, few gave Swansea much hope of clinching survival. There ended up being no real worries at the Liberty Stadium though as the Premier League debutants finished in 11th place, registering 47 points in the process.
Having lost to Swansea on the final day of the 2011/12 season, Rodgers was certainly no stranger to senior figures at Liverpool. Although Rodgers had just one year of top-flight experience, the Reds were impressed with his style of football and handed him a three-year-deal in the summer of 2012, a move endorsed by former Chelsea colleague Jose Mourinho.
In Rodgers’ first season at Anfield, he oversaw some modest improvements. The Merseysiders finished one place higher in the league and registered an extra nine points. The following year his men really found their stride, launching an unexpected title charge. Aided by the lethal combination of Luiz Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, a first Premier League title was Liverpool’s to lose with just three games to go. However, Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip against Chelsea followed by a 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace saw the title go the way of Man City.
Although the season ended in disappointment, Liverpool were at least back as title contenders, after a five-year wait. This would not last though as Rodgers could only guide the Reds to sixth, partly due to the loss of Luis Suarez. With a continuation of slightly underwhelming results carrying on into the 2015/16 season, Rodgers only lasted until October.
Fancying a change of scenery, Rodgers took up the vacant spot at Celtic ahead of the 2016/17 season. Under his leadership, the Bhoys enjoyed a period of complete dominance, aided by the fact Rangers had only just returned to the Premiership following their three-tier demotion. At the first attempt Rodgers guided Celtic to their first domestic treble since 2000/01 and did the same the following year.
Although he never got his team firing in Europe, securing back-to-back domestic trebles was a superb achievement. Rodgers passed up the opportunity for a historic ‘treble treble’ though, despite being well on course for it, in order to seal a move to Leicester City. He had already secured the League Cup but leaving mid-season meant it was up to his replacement, Neil Lennon, to secure the title and Scottish Cup (which he did).
Leicester City (2019-2023)
Rodgers may have enjoyed an abundance of success at Celtic but at Leicester, it was rather more of a mixed bag. On the face of things, he did an exceptional job during his first two full seasons in charge, securing Europa League football on both occasions and picking up one FA Cup. There is nothing to take away from the domestic cup glory but the two fifth-place finishes did come with a slight sour taste. This is not because Leicester underachieved, but rather they twice threw away a top four finish following end-of-season collapses.
Although there were subsequently concerns about the mental strength of Rodgers and his players, he had still overseen Leicester’s two best seasons since their shock title win. A slightly disappointing eighth-placed finish followed in 2021/22 before a horrid campaign the following year. Due to all his fine work in the past, the Leicester board gave Rodgers plenty of time to turn it around. Even they had a limit though and on 2nd April, with the Foxes sat in 19th place, they decided to part ways with their FA Cup-winning manager.