Rodgers’ first game in charge of the Foxes will be at Watford on Sunday (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), while Parker’s Fulham host Chelsea in a west London derby on the same day (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
After leaving Celtic, Rodgers has been the subject of abuse from fans of the Scottish giants but in his first press conference as Leicester boss the lifelong Celtic fan explained the decision he made was an incredibly tough one.
“It is a very, very difficult decision. If I was making this decision with my heart then I’d be at Celtic for life. It is an incredible club that I have supported all my life. If all happened very quickly,” Rodgers said. “I was presented an opportunity that came to me and of course, emotionally, you’re having to take that out. My decision was that after nearly three years at Celtic, with everything we achieved, the success we had on the pitch and the improvements we made off the pitch, I felt it was probably time to move on to my next challenge. I’ve had opportunities to leave in my three years at Celtic, but this was an opportunity I felt was too good to turn down.”
Rodgers added that “Celtic supporters will hurt” and he “understands how they feel” as there is now uncertainty regarding their future under interim manager Neil Lennon.
But focusing on Leicester, Rodgers believes qualifying for Europe and winning one of the domestic cup competitions is a realistic aim for his talented young squad.
“With the club having that ambition to move forward and keep progressing, that was ultimately what was the real draw. The expectancy is to challenge for a European place and look to win a trophy. That has to be the expectation,” Rodgers said. “I think what Leicester achieved a few years ago [winning the Premier League title] was an incredible story. It is recognized as one of the most incredible stories in the history of football. That will always be difficult to repeat. However, after a couple of years of instability their object is to move forward. For me to come here at this stage of the season was to come in and assess where the squad is at over these last remaining games and see where we can improve.”
Parker admitted that he has “mixed emotions” to take his first managerial job, as the former Charlton, Chelsea, West Ham, Tottenham, Newcastle and Fulham midfielder takes over from Claudio Ranieri.
The Italian coach was fired after Fulham lost 2-0 at Southampton on Wednesday as they’re now 10 points from safety with 10 games to go.
Parker, who was part of Ranieri’s coaching staff, has been placed in interim charge until the end of the season and his remit is clear: restore pride to the team.
“It’s definitely an audition. On a personal note this is something I started working towards seven years ago when I was a Spurs player,” Parker said. “I’ve got an ambition to be a manager. My main focus at this moment in time is getting the team together, finding some stability.”
The former England international knows it will be a huge ask to keep Fulham in the PL now, as the Cottagers have an very tough schedule remaining. After their clash against Chelsea on Sunday they face Leicester, Liverpool and Man City.
Parker knows miracles aren’t expected of him, and his main aim is to knit the squad of players together.
“The situation doesn’t lie. It’s a tough ask but I’m relishing the opportunity of testing ourselves against these big teams. We need to get a balance back. As a club, as fans, as players, as owners, we just need to regroup a little bit,” Parker said. “If we do that well, results will be a by-product of that. I hope I can transmit my passion to the team, get my energy across. I know there’s more to football than passion and drive, but that’s a fundamental element.”