Top Line Summary

  • Injury latest on Palma + McGregor
  • Livingston preview
  • Abada + Bernabei tributes
  • James Forrest squad role update

Everything Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said to the media, ahead of their cup game against Livingston on Sunday afternoon...

How's your squad looking for this one?

More or less the same. Luis Palma has got a bit of a knock so may not feature. Apart from that then it's pretty much the same.

How is Callum McGregor after his scan?

Inconclusive really. I think we had it in our mind anyway that he would miss through to the international break and then take it from there. He travelled for the scan but nothing really showed up in that so much. We will assess it in the next couple of weeks. We just have to see how that feels on a day-to-day basis.

What are you expecting from Livingston?

For us, it's an opportunity to make a big step into the semi-final. I think Dave (Martindale) has done a brilliant job over a number of years there. I certainly know from my first time up here that they are always a team that is very committed, and very tough to beat and that's in his sides. That's always been his teams. So, we prepare for a tough game. I always feel we have to look at ourselves first and for us, it's just really our consistency in our work and our approach.  I think the second half against Motherwell, the game against Dundee, the beginning of the Hearts game and even through that with ten men, the players worked very hard in the game. So consistency is important to take that ethic in. If we can do that then we take our football to a high level and hopefully, that can get us into the semi-final.

Did you get the reaction you were looking for this week from the players after the Hearts game?

Yeah, listen, the players gave everything. I said after the game they made a really good start and they continued to work their way through the game with a third game in a week. Playing with ten men for virtually the whole game was always going to be a challenge against a good side. But I think we get together and we've had a good week's training, and we can take that mentality into the game Sunday.

You’ve had the SFA charge, based on what you said on Sunday. How do you feel about that, and do you have any regrets about what you said?

No, not at all. My job is to defend the team and club and that’s what we’ll do in this case. We’ll defend it vigorously and when the day comes, we’ll go from there.

Will that involve you defending yourself personally?

I don’t know, I’ll sit down with the club and the lawyers and we’ll look at it from there.

Can you understand why you’ve been charged? Compared to other comments from other managers about referees this season? 

I don’t want I go into that. I said after the game - and it’s that one game - but it’s my observations over many games. Primarily around the inconsistencies of decisions. I don’t want to go into it too much. I never talk so much about referees and I’ve never done over the course of my career. I understand they make mistakes but I felt the ones last week were clear errors in the game. The first one I’ve seen incidents worse than that. I felt the on-field decision was correct, the yellow card. We had a report back to say that the studs and boots were in the face of the player, which clearly a couple of days later - even when we get that report - it’s clearly not the case when you watch it. We’ll go through that and we’ll answer that later on in the month. 

I just want to get your reaction to Liel Abada leaving the club. How do you look back on his time at Celtic?

It’s desperately sad, the whole situation. A fantastic young player who came in here as a 19-year-old. A young man who came to another country and came and lit up the field with so many fantastic goals, having a really successful period here. Whatever doubts he had in the summer, he was really happy to commit. He signed a new deal and then now - through no fault of his own or the club’s - he has had to leave to take his career elsewhere. I spoke to Liel on Monday evening, we had him in the house as I knew he was going to be travelling the next morning. Desperately sad, because I was looking forward to working with him over a period of time to see if we could improve and develop his game. If you look back, he’s created some wonderful memories here. I’m sure Celtic and Glasgow will have a big place in his heart and we wish him all the very best over in America.

Talking about his career, he came here at 19. A young player moving country for the first time. Can he be a role model to other players, anyone that comes to Celtic, that this can happen? You can play loads of games and score big goals? It can be a success story?

Coming from anywhere, it doesn’t matter where you come from. Clearly, coming from halfway across the world, the culture is different, and the food is different. Everything is different! Life, the intensity of football, and of course that can be a challenge. He dealt with that ever so well. Every player is different, people expect these players to come in and adapt straight away, and some do. They have that adaption straight away. For others, it takes a little bit of time. For him, he’s done so well for the club, and now we’re desperately sad he’s left, because we’re losing a very good player, but we wish him all the very best in his future.

Was there ever a pathway with getting Liel back into the team? 

Not really. It was just meetings and feelings, conversations that I'd had. It was difficult for him. He was training every day, and committed to his work. He's a top professional. But just the situation with how it evolved and developed, it felt very difficult. Football is a game very much of the mind. If you're not quite focused or you can't put something aside, something as big as this here, then it becomes very difficult to be at your best. That sadly was the case for him. We spoke most days, just checking in and making sure he was okay, seeing him in his training. Ultimately he wants to play football, and when it got to the situation where I felt there was no chance or opportunity I think we both looked at it, and as a club as well, probably felt the best possibility would be for him to move on.

Was he feeling pressure from back home and was that one of the things holding him back?

It was clearly a situation that, like he said, was unplanned. Wherever it comes from, there were multiple reasons for him not to be in that frame of mind. It's done now. He's moved on. He had a great two-and-a-half years here. He did very well and we have to move on.

In football terms, is it a disappointment for you that there was still a lot of potential there?

Absolutely. He's really only at the beginning of what I would call the 'asset age' - between 22 and 29 years of age. That's where you want to grow and develop, then find yourself at the top of your game. He was 22, so he'd just begun that really. It's desperately sad that we haven't been able to see him here for longer because I feel he will grow and develop. He's got a natural instinct to score goals. He's really a striker who plays wide. You look at his movement, you look at his intuition in the box to get goals and of course, any team will always want that.

What's the thinking with Bernabei's move and what does the future hold? 

Again, a really good professional. He never gave us a minute's problem while I've been here. Trained hard every day but he wants to go and play. Obviously, you can only be open and honest and say the chances will be limited for him here. So, that chance to go to Brazil, he's playing under an Argentinian coach and hopefully play regular football.

There have been drop-offs in certain halves of games, how hard is it to get a 90-minute showing when it's like that?

It's been like that for bits of the season. I think it's also recognising it's not going to be the starting XI. I see people talking about that I don't know the best team or the best structure. I know clearly what the structure is. And it's not about the best team. It's about the team that finishes the game. You play so many times you're looking for energy in the game that you can't possibly keep unless you keep those changes so in a couple of games we have played 4-2-3-1 in a couple of games recently. I felt then we'd play with an extra midfielder to play against the line of five and make runs in behind and if we need to change the game, then we can do and that's what we did. Each game is tactically different. It's not about finding your best XI because your best XI normally won't finish the game so you have to adapt within the game. There's no doubt that ruthless mentality you need to have and we'd want that for longer periods of course. We will continue to analyse and look at that to see where we can get better but by the end of the game, if we have won the game, that's what's most important. 

Could James Forrest be involved?  

James is available and he's training. He has been an amazing servant to this club and I think in these final games he may well have a part to play. For me, the thing is looking at the team, we need to have that intensity and that relentless mentality. There's no doubt about his ability. That's never in question. As a winger, in terms of ability, he's the best one we have. But how we ask the game to be played with the intensity and the constant running, as you get older it becomes a challenge. There's no doubt, I'm pretty sure there will be a point in these next 11 games when he will be required. He's training so well and he's keeping himself so well. He's a top professional. He looks after his body every day and if he's required to play then he will do.