Celtic have taken 'mental step forward', says Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers believes his Celtic team have taken a step forward mentally following a transitional period.

Celtic have bounced back from a Viaplay Cup exit at Kilmarnock and dropping two Scottish Premiership points at home to bottom club St Johnstone by recording three consecutive domestic wins.

The setbacks came amid a period of change which saw nine players arrive and speculation over the future of others following the exits of established players Aaron Mooy, Jota and Carl Starfelt.

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Joe Hart was sent off in Celtic’s 3-0 Scottish Premiership victory at Livingston

The winning run has included victory at Ibrox with a makeshift central defence and a 3-0 victory at Livingston last weekend despite having Joe Hart sent off.

That game followed a Champions League defeat by Feyenoord but there were encouraging signs in the performance before Celtic kept the score down to 2-0 after getting two men sent off.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s league game at Motherwell, Rodgers said: “Over the course of the summer and probably early part of the season, and with the transfer window, there was probably a feeling of a little bit of instability. Are players going to be here or not? A new manager coming, what is he asking us to do?

“But now I think the team have taken a really big mental step forward and you see that in how they are performing – the determination, the intensity, the quality is starting to move forward to the levels I want it to get to. That’s always the beginning of a really good team.

Celtic's Nat Phillips
Nat Phillips is expected to return for Celtic’s trip to Motherwell

“I am really happy with the progress we are making day on day but we have to keep working very hard.

“My priority in my career, my body of work, has always been about the quality of our football, and that’s quality of football to win games. We are starting to see that now.”

The players’ understanding of their roles and the system was evident in adversity in Rotterdam and West Lothian.

“The team’s traits have to be good organisation, togetherness and personality,” Rodgers said.

“I mentioned that before we went down to nine men and 10 men. Those are traits you need in any good team and the players have demonstrated that.

“The one thing I have always said, we won’t unravel mentally if we go down to 10 men. Why? Because the guys will understand what it is they have to do. And that’s what they did, both at Feyenoord and Livingston.

“We have to very quickly have a plan of what happens next. You saw against Livingston the stability of the team, they stayed calm, stayed in control.”

Anthony Ralston has agreed a new 4-year deal at Celtic
Anthony Ralston has agreed a new four-year deal at Celtic

Celtic have moved to provide stability by extending contracts of the likes of Daizen Maeda, Kyogo Furuhashi, Stephen Welsh and Anthony Ralston and are continuing discussions with Reo Hatate.

Ralston signed until 2027 earlier this week and Rodgers believes the right-back’s continued presence is important for the squad.

“I’m really happy for him because not only is he a very good player, he is a big Celtic supporter as well,” he said.

“For me it’s really important to have players that have come through the system because they have a real feeling of the club.

“I think any player that comes in here has an idea of the history. They then go through an induction process where they understand everything about the club.

Celtic are unbeaten in the Scottish Premiership this season

“And then they have that support, the players are great at helping them solve problems.

“Especially with the numbers of players coming in here, the likes of Tony help them settle in, because it’s not an easy transition with the intensity straight away. I know from speaking to a number of the new players that that’s been a challenge for them.

“They come from a slower level of football, different climates, and all of a sudden they are into a high-tempo, high-intensity game.

“Guys like Callum (McGregor), Tony, James (Forrest), Bainy (Scott Bain), have been here a long time and they make that transition a lot smoother.”

Scottish Premiership and SWPL on Sky Sports

SPFL ball for 2023/24 season

Sky Sports – This season up to 48 cinch Premiership games will be available across Sky Sports’ flagship channels, including Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event, plus at least five SWPL matches. From 2024/25, up to 60 cinch Premiership will be live on Sky Sports, in addition to the SWPL.

Sky Sports News – Running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Scottish football fans can enjoy Sky Sports News’ (channel 409) rolling editorial coverage of the cinch Premiership and SWPL throughout the season.

Sky Sports Digital – Follow all the latest from Scottish football across SkySports.com and app, including exclusive features and interviews, plus dedicated live blog coverage, in-game clips from matches live on Sky Sports and free highlights.

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Highlights show – Tune in for a dedicated round-up from the cinch Premiership every week on Sky Sports Football.

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