Football/Soccer

Bhoys boss Brendan Rodgers unfazed by Kenny Cunningham criticism

Brendan Rodgers knows that criticism comes with the territory after his team were labelled "naive" by Kenny Cunningham in the aftermath of last week's Champions League defeat to Bayern Munch

CELTIC boss Brendan Rodgers has defended himself against criticism from former Republic of Ireland captain Kenny Cunningham that his side were “naïve” in last week’s Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.

Goals from Thomas Muller, Joshua Kimmich and Mats Hummels led the German giants to a comfortable victory at the Allianz Arena, with Jupp Heynckes’s men spurning a host of other opportunities to extend that lead.

And Cunningham, now a pundit with eirSport, blasted the Bhoys’ performance as “naïve” and claimed Rodgers’s football philosophy “doesn’t stand up” at Champions League level.

Yet the treble-winning Hoops boss insisted he was always looking at the bigger picture with a view to developing a style of play that leaves them equipped to mix it on the European scene as well as domestically, where Celtic have been dominant.

And criticism, he knows, comes with the territory.

“It’s always the way,” said the Carnlough man.

“When you win games, you’re a tactical genius and when you lose games, there’s always critics. To be fair, even when you win, there are critics.

“It’s probably not the first time I’ve seen Kenny and some of his quotes... it’s modern football now, there’s opinions left, right and centre. As manager, you just have to focus on your own job.

“Some people obviously don’t know the reality of what we’re competing against and what we’re up against, but we’ll always do our best.

“It’s football, there’ll always be critics, and that’s also when you’re winning.”

On his tactics against Bayern, he added: “You can either sit back and wait for the game and maybe end up losing it against superior opponents, or you at least try and show that you’re trying to play and trying to develop something more than just that game on the evening.

“Realistically in Europe, it’s very tough. We’re in a group with two mammoth teams. I’m realistic – you can dream, you can have ambition, but in football now, the money that’s in the game, it becomes very difficult to compete to the latter stages of the competition the way teams maybe could’ve done years ago.

“That shouldn’t dent our hopes. We have to look to see if we can always be in Europe after Christmas and if we can do that consistently then for us, in terms of where we’re at, that’s a huge effort for everyone.”

The Glasgow giants bounced back from that reversal in Bavaria in impressive fashion, defeating Hibernian 4-2 three days later to book their place in the League Cup final against Motherwell.

And Rodgers says he never doubted the professionalism of his players to bounce back.

“I’ve got a great bunch of guys.

“The players here aren’t used to losing so when they do lose it’s tough, it’s hard to take, but that’s the job of the manager to ensure that your leadership allows you to move on from that.

“As Celtic manager and Celtic players, every game is a big game. It was a testament to their professionalism that, after the game on Wednesday, even in the changing room afterwards, they were getting ready for the 12.15pm kick-off on Saturday.”

Tickets are on sale for ‘An evening with Brendan Rodgers’ at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall on Wednesday, November 1.

The event, hosted by Eamonn Holmes, will celebrate the launch of the Celtic manager’s official autobiography ‘Brendan Rodgers: The Road to Paradise’. Tickets, priced at £15, can be purchased from Belfast’s official Celtic store, via the Waterfront box office or by visiting https://etickets.waterfront.co.uk

At Rodgers’s request, Celtic FC has made donations to the Northern Ireland Hospice and Children’s Hospices across Scotland (CHAS) in relation to the publication of this book and a further donation will be made by the club to each charity for every copy of the book sold.

Celtic FC Foundation, the charitable arm of the club, will also benefit from a donation.

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