1. ITV Report

Brendan Rodgers guides Celtic to title in first season

Credit: PA

Brendan Rodgers has won the Scottish Premiership title at his first attempt, with eight games to spare after his team hammered Hearts 5-0, at Tynecastle.

The Carnlough man had gone close to winning a league title while in charge at Liverpool, but this was his first league triumph as a manager.

The Hoops are unbeaten domestically since the start of the season and are on course for a treble.

Rodgers' side have claimed 28 wins and two draws in the league and have already lifted the Scottish League Cup, with a Scottish Cup semi against arch-rivals Rangers in three weeks time.

The Northern Irishman replaced Ronny Deila in May 2016, after the Norwegian was unable to build on a strong start that saw him win two league titles.

After an embarrassing start that saw the Parkhead men fall to defeat against Gibraltarian Lincoln Red Imps in a Champions League qualifier, Rodgers recovered and saw them safely into the groups stages.

While they finished bottom of their pool and suffered heavy defeats against Barcelona, there were two excellent draws, against Manchester City, which were a cause for optimism.

Europe will have to remain a work in progress, but on the domestic front Rodgers demonstrated his prowess although it must be noted that his task was made easier given the lack of challenge from their traditional rivals Rangers.

There were no wholesale changes to the squad left by Deila.

Rodgers brought in the experienced former Manchester City and Arsenal defender Kolo Toure to help out at the back in the early stages of the campaign.

He tempted the exciting 20-year-old French striker Moussa Dembele from Fulham and he has gone on to score 17 league goals, plus 15 more so far in other competitions and is on the cusp of a call-up to the France senior squad.

Scotland striker Leigh Griffiths, who scored 40 goals last season, has been often been consigned to the bench. although he, like Dembele missed the Tynecastle game through injury.

Rodgers has rejuvenated the career of former Manchester City and Aston Villa attacker Scott Sinclair since bringing him north of the border last summer and he once again showed his worth in Gorgie with a hat-trick to take his tall for the season to 20 so far.

However, it has been the work with a squad which too often under-performed under Deila which has impressed as much as his recruitment.

He has given a new lease of life to Stuart Armstrong by bringing him in to centre midfield to the point he gained his first Scotland cap against Slovenia.

Veteran keeper Craig Gordon's form earned him a new deal. Left-back Kieran Tierney, still only 19, has kept his standards high and winger James Forrest has improved his consistency.

Belgian defender Dedryck Boyata was a forgotten figure at Celtic Park before Rodgers restored him to the side on a permanent basis at the start of the year.

Mikael Lustig, Jozo Simunovic and Erik Sviatchenko have been solid in defence and skipper Scott Brown has driven the team on again. There have been valuable contributions from players like Patrick Roberts, Callum McGregor, Nir Bitton and Tom Rogic.

Celtic have swept all before them in Scotland.

Only four points have been dropped, with draws away to Inverness in September and at home to Rangers in March.

In addition to the 5-1 thumping of the Ibrox club in September, at various times Celtic scored six against Kilmarnock, five against St Johnstone and Hearts and four against Motherwell, Aberdeen, Inverness, Partick Thistle and Ross County in the league.

No-one has had an answer.

Rodgers will be asked to do better in Europe next season but on the domestic front the Parkhead club can bank of more success.