Following his time at Anfield and a perfect first season in Scotland with Celtic, Brendan Rodgers has established himself as one of the brightest young minds in football. Future Sport visited Rodgers at the treble-winners’ training ground to talk vision, commitment and resilience, and to hear the Ulsterman pass on his advice to the next generation of successful coaches…

It’s a Saturday evening in late May and Brendan Rodgers would be forgiven for straying from football and thinking about his summer.

He and his Celtic team have just beaten Aberdeen at Hampden Park in the Scottish Cup Final to complete the domestic treble, going the season unbeaten and breaking years old records along the way.

Many would sit back and soak in the glory of being one of few teams in history, anywhere in the world, to achieve such a feat. But Rodgers is a perfectionist. Even while parading the cup around Hampden to thousands of adoring fans dressed in the famous green and white, Rodgers would’ve been thinking of how to improve on a, quite literally, perfect season.

“If you’re going to reach the very top there’s a lot of work in it,” he says. “There are no shortcuts.”

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Rodgers’ path to management is an unorthodox one by today’s standards. A playing career ended in his youth by injury, he soon set off on a journey of discovery to become a coach. Much like his mentor and friend Jose Mourinho, Rodgers travelled – he’s fluent in Spanish – observed and watched others from afar as he laid the foundations for his new career with the youth team at Reading.

Laying out his philosophy to UCFB from Celtic’s modest training facility at the foot of the Campsie Fells, a few miles north of Glasgow, Rodgers – bright, engaging, resilient – says: “If you haven’t had the background of being a player you have to work and you have to be able to devote your time. You have to learn as much as you can and step by step grow and become better within the role. There’s no template in becoming a top coach or a top manager, you have to create your own.”

Mourinho took Rodgers to Chelsea as head youth coach during his first spell at the club, which is where his journey began to gather pace. He spent four years there before Watford came knocking for his first taste of management. After keeping them in the Championship, the lure of the chance to take the hot seat at Reading was too much. However, Rodgers lasted only six months at the Madjeski. His coaching career had come to an abrupt halt.

“I was an aspiring coach, then I became a manager,” he says. “But I made a mistake and left Watford too early. When I was relieved of my duties at Reading, it was the first time and was very difficult because, at that point, you’re not sure if you’re going to get another chance.”

So how did he deal with the first big setback of his coaching career? “I think the approach is to work and understand that in this modern world and modern football, you’re going to lose your job. All the statistics are there to see that the lifespan of a manger in one position isn’t long.”

It was another six months until Rodgers found work again. Swansea, fast gaining a reputation as one of the most technically gifted teams outside of the Premier League, took a chance on another young manager, following the appointments of Roberto Martinez and Paulo Silva.

In his first season Rodgers led the Swans to the promised land – the Premier League. Suddenly the likes of Joe Allen, Scott Sinclair and Ashley Williams were household names. From day one his team bought into his cultured outlook on the game, which many credit with the time Rodgers spent in Spain learning the game and honing his approach.

“I think it’s about having a clear vision,” the Ulsterman says. “For that I need to present to the players how I see the future and then promote that and promote the standards that we wanted to be and do every single day.”

With vigour, he adds: “Vision is absolutely vital. I believe in terms of taking the players on a journey; they have to believe that you can improve them and make them better. They like to have an idea on the future and where they’re going and I think that’s vital.”

How do you do that?

“By talking and by communicating with them. I think it’s important to look after the human being first. Find out about the player, find out about his needs, his family, what his ambitions are and always ensure that you separate the two.”

Rodgers kept Swansea in the top division the following season with ease. He was now being touted as one of the brightest young minds in the game, so it wasn’t long until he found himself in one of the biggest jobs in football – Liverpool.

Seventh in his first year in charge, the following season Liverpool led the league with three games to go. However, a costly slip from Steven Gerrard and a late collapse at Crystal Palace meant the Reds went another year without league success. Fast forward 18 months and a Merseyside derby draw later, Rodgers, harshly, was shown the door.

Clearly still showing the scars from his time at Anfield, and of a job unfinished, Rodgers says: “When it happened at Liverpool the second time I was at a much better place. I was fortunate enough that financially I didn’t have the need to go back into work the next day. When I left Reading I was out of the game for six months, but financially I should have really walked into a job the next day because I needed it.”

Rodgers was also much better prepared mentally for the day he, like all managers, knows will come at some point. “You try to frame it in your mind that you’re going to get the sack,” the 44-year-old says. “It’s only a matter of time. Whether you like it or not, it’s coming. So how am I going to deal with it and then how can I look forward? Give yourself that sort of plan.”

“I knew when I left Liverpool I was going to have some time out and that gave me the chance to recover physically and mentally before preparing myself for my next role. How do you do it? Experience will help you, but of course it’s also about having inherent belief in your ability.”

It was that inherent belief that led him, maybe surprisingly, to Glasgow. That he won the Scottish Premier League in his first season surprised no one. Celtic have been, and will be, Scotland’s dominant force for years. It’s the quality of the football Celtic Park has seen, on top of the recruitment and the drastic change in mentality of the playing squad that has made the west end of Glasgow look across the Clyde in awe.

“Celtic was a winning club,” Rodgers says. “And we wanted to create this ‘one club, one vision’ mentality.”

Captain Scott Brown has credited Rodgers with revitalising his career and extending it. Under previous manager Ronny Deila, the Bhoys went through the motions. In his last season at Celtic they won the league, but there was little else to shout about. Drab football on the pitch, falling attendances off it, and most gallingly of all an Old Firm defeat in the Scottish Cup semi-final.

Rodgers has rightfully been credited with revitalising the whole club. His vision was an easy sell to all at Celtic. His recruitment is also evidence of selling that dream. Scott Sinclair has excelled during his first season in Scotland, and the signing of one-time Tottenham and PSG target Moussa Dembele from Fulham has excited Scottish football in a way not seen since another famous Celtic forward, the great Henrik Larsson.

Top to bottom, Rodgers says: “If you’re leading it’s very important that the people above you understand the direction that you’re trying to work in.”

He adds: “These people, they might be a billionaire or there might be multiple owners of a club, they like to know the direction in which the club is heading. The ability to communicate that vision and sell that vision is very important, and it’s equally as important to be able to speak with the lady that’s working in the kitchen. You have to know your audience. Irrespective of where they sit in the hierarchy, you have to be able to find the way to speak to them, to help them and to support them.”

An improved showing in Europe next season will be near the top of Rodgers’ priority list. Get that right, and continue his incredible domestic record, and it’s a matter of when, not if, we’ll see him back in one of Europe’s top leagues.

This interview originally appeared in UCFB’s Future Sport magazine, which can be read in full here.