Brendan Rodgers pinpoints Celtic fan power as key to title resurgence as he rallies the troops for crucial run in

Brendan Rodgers reckons everyone at Celtic can see clearly now the pain has gone.

And there are no more obstacles in his side’s way now the dark clouds have lifted around Parkhead. Rodgers has a straight sight on the Premiership crown but there have been more murky times this term when off-the-field problems have led to a lack of clarity on the pitch. The Hoops boss has had to deal with plenty of problems from disgruntled supporters to a crippling injury list.

But having hit top spot again in recent weeks, the Irishman now has a feeling he’s not been able to enjoy all year – a sense of being settled. And he’s hoping the clear view on the horizon can lead all the way to the finishing line. Rodgers – who claimed the April manager of the month award – said: “I think everyone is now focused on football. It felt like there were a lot of distractions in the first six months of the season in various ways. Once the focus has really come in to football and everyone really being together with – that makes a huge difference.

“The players feel that too. This is such an incredible fanbase here and it’s an extension to the team staff. When they get behind us, as we’ve seen in the last few months, you see the strength in that unity of everyone moving forward.

“That for me, from a managerial perspective, has been the real catalyst. Hopefully we can continue that way. I think there was a lot of settling in, a lot of adjustment in me coming back, talk how ‘how long is he going to be here?’ There was Ange leaving after two successful seasons. You lose one manager and another comes in that some people don’t want in!

“There is all that settling going on, then, obviously the principle difference in the performance levels has been the unavailability of players. That’s been the main difference at times when maybe the team hasn’t played at the tempo or style you want. We’ve missed players that give a dynamism and directness to this team. All of that thrown into the pot made it a little fragmented.

“But as time has gone on and everything has settled, the team has picked up important results and performances. We are now at the stage when it all comes together and I was would say this is the most settled we’ve been.”

Rodgers has felt a shift from the supporters in recent times, from impatient nervousness in the stands, to a more positive force behind them. The boss is convinced that fan power can help nudge his side over the line with three Celtic Park clashes in the remaining four matches.

Rodgers said: “They'll play a huge part. That's been the difference in the last few months, I think they've been what's helped keep things connected. The supporters along with ourselves, the staff, everyone are a real connection and extension to the team and what we see on the field. That support they give to the team, it's unrivalled when everyone's on-side and they're with us.

“To have that in a few of the last few games at home will be special. We'll also need that patience as well because teams aren't going to turn up and roll over, meaning we have to be patient in the stands as well as on the field as we look to play our game with that speed and tempo as we aim to cause difficult moments for the opposition. But to be at home, on the pitch, with the crowd, then hopefully we can take that advantage with us.”

Celtic's Yang Hyun-jun is is shown a red card after a VAR check
Celtic's Yang Hyun-jun is is shown a red card after a VAR check -Credit:SNS Group

Rodgers is hoping it will be a different story to the last time Hearts headed to the east end of Glasgow. The Jambos nabbed all three points back in December and the natives were furious rather than just restless.

And the title looked up the lum when the Gorgie men repeated the feat in Edinburgh in March, despite Rangers spilling points to Motherwell the previous day. But Celtic haven’t looked back since, rattling off six wins and a draw at Ibrox to regain pole position.

Understandably, Rodgers doesn’t fancy digging up old wounds of that day. He said: “I won't get bogged down in the last two games we've had against them, one home and one away. For me, this is very much about ourselves and our focus.

"Hearts have done well, we've played a really good game against them earlier on in the season, for various reasons the two other games were not so good, but this is us at home now in the final stretch of the season, super motivated and hungry to play well and if we can do that and play well then we want to be able to pick up three points.”

Rodgers had the cigars out by this stage in his previous seasons at the club but he insisted he’s relishing the heat of a thrilling end to the campaign. The trick is making sure he can ease the stress on his squad. The gaffer said: “I have really enjoyed it. The game is about pressure and how you deal with it.

“I’m comfortable in this environment and pressure situation. My job is to decrease the pressure on the players. It’s something I’ve always done, especially at the biggest clubs, because there is so much pressure on these guys from a variety of places.

“I don’t want to add to that. It’s my job to regulate the pressure to allow them to feel confident to play and to manage their mood so they are always positive and ready to go and play the best they possibly can.”