The humble paella Celtic fans have been served by Rodgers as captain admits certainty ever since THAT Majorca date

We don’t know what was served during that secret Spanish lunch when Brendan Rodgers met with Callum McGregor for hush hush talks ahead of the Irishman’s sensational return to Celtic.

But we do know what was on the menu at Parkhead at the weekend as the manager dished out large dollops of humble pie to those who doubted him. Or maybe that should be humble paella.

It’s fair to say McGregor was never one of them. Not for a single second. Rodgers didn’t miss in the wake Saturday’s stunning Old Firm victory that has fired Celts to the verge of the title. The 51-year-old took aim at the critics, the ones who questioned his appetite or hunger after leaving sunny Spain and throwing himself back into the Glasgow cauldron. It wasn’t just the mean old media either. Sure, some pundits copped it, but plenty of punters have been tucking napkins under the chins and asking for another slice as well.

Rodgers knew a few noses remained out of joint due to his sharp exit for Leicester City in 2019 but he didn’t expect doubts over his ability as a manager. Not that they ever crossed the mind of his captain – who didn’t need a fancy lunch to know the gaffer was tapas class.

McGregor said: “There was absolutely no doubt in my mind whatsoever. I’ve seen it up close and personal for a number of years now. He’s been outstanding. It’s been difficult circumstances with big injuries to key players.

“He’s been amazing. He’s always been a pillar of strength for the club. He has that calmness, he was that when he was here the first time and even more so second time. He trusts the process, he stays calm and looks to his experience players to lead the way. I think we’ve done that and it has come together in the last four or five weeks, and we can have a positive end to the season.

“Football is never perfect. You have a really successful squad with a successful manager. But people move on, people come in, it’s the start of a new cycle with new players and a new manager. It takes time. What we have been great at over the last couple of years is trusting the process, training as hard as we possibly can and our behaviour on and off the pitch.

“We know that works and it comes together. The last three or four weeks it’s started to look more like what we would want ourselves to look like. Throughout all that, the manager has been unbelievable.”

Rodgers had McGregor at hello back in Majorca last summer – and the midfield ace didn’t need any convincing to jump back on board. Successful football clubs need a top man in the dugout who works in perfect harmony with his general on the pitch. Rodgers had it during his first spell after a similar meeting with Scott Brown before he took the reigns. And McGregor was also on the exact same page from day dot.

He said: “I love it. I think we are very similar minded in the way we approach football and elite sport. Our mentalities are are very similar – and I love the way he plays football, the way he approaches the game. We struck up a brilliant relationship the first time and the mantra when he came back was to try to continue that as much as possible.

"We’ve put ourselves in a great position to hopefully go on and clinch the league and obviously we have a big Cup Final at the end of the season as well. It’s been good so far, but there’s a lot for the squad to work and improve on going into next year as well.”

The jobs isn’t done yet and Celts are determined not to make a meal of the remaining games against Kilmarnock on Wednesday night and St Mirren on Saturday as they look to secure the point they need to be officially crowns champs. McGregor won’t skip straight to dessert either but he does feel there’s something cooking at the club in Rodgers’s second spell.

He said: “I hope that something we’ve been able to build over the last 10 years, strong people in big positions. When players come and go, it’s about the guys that come in, they understand the club they are at, in terms of the demands of success and performance. That’s the structure we have in place so hopefully when the next group comes in we can try to continue that as much as possible.”

In the meantime, there’s a title to wrap up. McGregor admitted it’s been a tough test this season but what hasn’t killed Celts has made them stronger. It’s no coincidence the side has hit top gear with some of their main men back off the treatment table.

Rangers have struggled with injuries of their own but when the ingredients are all laid out, it’s clear Celtic bring far more to the table. And McGregor is now hoping it’s set up a tasty end to the term.

Speaking to Sky Sports, the skipper said: “There have been difficult moments. I’ve spoken about the residents of the squad and the club. We’ve had difficult circumstances throughout the year with injuries and things like that.

“Sometimes you just need to keep going, hoping that things will turn around by doing the hard work and the hard yards. Then when the big games come around you have to give your all to win them.

“We’ve managed to do that in three out of the four derbies, which has given us an advantage. We’re nearly there, but we know there’s a lot of work to be done on Wednesday night and on Saturday.”