Neuroscientists have known for some time that the human brain can quickly make sense of what at first glance is nonsense? They are not entirely sure why, but part of the reason is almost certainly because our brains are able to use context to make predictions about what’s to come next. As the brain deciphers each word – sometimes seeing only the bookends of first and last letters – it is also predicting which words would logically come next to form a coherent sentence, filling in any gaps as necessary.
Brendan Rodgers has always used a few wee words to fill in any gaps in our understanding of defeat, defensive frailty and clueless game management such that he has turned this natural ‘meaning out of mess’ process into a ‘garbage out of gravitas’ art form, all his own.
Researchers at Glasgow University’s Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology were thus keen to involve Brendan in their experiments to ascertain whether Brendan or the human brain would come out on top.
After Celtic had completed their 65th domestic match unbeaten by way of beating Motherwell in the Scottish League Cup Final on Sunday (sponsored by Betfred, who also have shorter odds on the Loch Ness Monster being sighted than Rangers being any good again), they had managed to consecutively win the last four major Scottish honours.
Brendan was apparently gushing. “Once we got the first goal we settled into a rhythm, but it’s our fourth trophy in 12 months, a phenomenal achievement really and a huge credit to our hunger and desire for longer, more lucrative contracts so that we can stay here and don’t have to do any proper defending or face teams with realistic chances of winning.”
Admittedly, this is a bit like Brendan’s old club, Liverpool, beating Solihull Moors on a regular basis (probably with a last-minute penalty after leading 3.0 at half-time) and when Celtic face teams from across borders their limitations are shown up, as are the height restrictions that Gordon Strachan used to have to face at national level before he abandoned the rusting van altogether.
After a headline of:
‘Clteic annhilatied by Fnchr Starbards’
following a 7.1 drubbing by PSG in the European Champions League tie, Brendan managed to convert it into an upbeat message of hope.
“We scored after just a minute, which is more than they did. If you analyse the goals… you’ve got a goal from 25 yards, one that dipped in, one that deflects out to Verratti and he finishes and the other one was a good finish from Cavani …”
Asked about their other three goals, Brendan admitted that Mathematics was never his strong point, and, indeed, that Latin was far more important in football management.
“I use a quote with the players, ‘Per Aspera aspidistra,’ which roughly translates to ‘through adversity to a genus of tough, flowering plants.’” The researchers are still trying to figure that one out.
Brendan also admitted that the trip to Paris had meant that, “We had to tick a few character boxes after midweek. I spotted the lions and tigers immediately but some of the players struggled with the foxes and hares, but, then again, we play with 11 men, other teams play with 10 men and a goalkeeper.”
Asked whether Brendan would now seek out new challenges in England, having proved himself on Scotland’s nursery slopes, he was suitably phlegmatic but, after using his trusty green and white handkerchief, did eventually seem to reply, “I’ve always said that you can live without water for many days, but you can’t live for a second without hope. The problem with being a football manager is that it’s like trying to build an aircraft while it is flying, but I’d rather be up in the clouds than grounded, or not even being mentioned for the Northern Ireland job, should Michael get done for speeding again.”
Perhaps the conclusion to this experiment into true meaning is best summed up by the late, great Jock Stein, whose consecutive domestic cup record the current Celtic team has now equalled. Before a match in 1967 that would forever immortalise Celtic as the ‘Lisbon Lions’, he commented,
“Cups are not won by individuals, but by men in a team who put their club before personal prestige.”