How Straight-Talking Aussie Ange Postecoglou Has Healed Celtic's Rifts

A massive Old Firm win took them six points clear at the top
09:11, 05 Apr 2022

Last season, during a COVID-19 impacted campaign, the only gatherings at Celtic Park were for demonstrations and protests against the PLC board and Neil Lennon.

A winter of discontent continued into spring and lingered throughout the summer months. A painstakingly slow managerial hunt, hindered by dithering and poor succession planning, led Eddie Howe to reject the opportunity to move north. Celtic were in disarray - and the eventual appointment of Ange Postecoglou led to further questions.

Postecoglou’s credentials, on initial inspection, looked dubious. The 56-year-old’s only experience of the European scene was a brief spell with the unheralded Greek side, Panachaiki. An Asian Cup triumph with the Australian national side and a title victory with Yokohama F. Marinos highlighted his capability, but his arrival was met with a heavy dose of scepticism.

At the start of the season, Postecoglou was in a unique position. For the first time in over a decade, Celtic were not favourites for the league title. The new gaffer had entered a club in crisis, and expectation levels mirrored the downbeat mood.

Any doubts the Celtic support held regarding the manager’s suitability began to evaporate when they saw how his side functioned. Postecoglou’s philosophy sounded appealing, a relentless attacking approach high in energy and intensity, and, crucially, he’s turned his ideas into reality.

A League Cup triumph was the appetiser for what was to come. A 3-0 dismantling of Rangers in February, a side that had lost just one league game in 62 outings, swung the pendulum towards Celtic - and they have remained in imperious form since.

As the Celtic squad jubilantly jigged in front of their small band of travelling supporters on Sunday at a deserted Ibrox, the mutual appreciation between players and fans was evident. A team hastily cobbled together in pre-season had stung their fierce rivals, and the Premiership trophy is almost certain to be returning to the east end of the city after a brief stay in Govan.

The turnover of players at Celtic last summer was considerable, yet despite the upheaval, Postecoglou has still managed to shape and hone a slick-winning machine. Good recruitment is essential, and the Australian, who exerts considerable influence, has been measured in his approach and only signed players suited to his system.

Celtic’s summer rebuild was funded by the sales of Odsonne Édouard and Kristoffer Ajer to the Premier League in England. Postecoglou has spent in the region of £20 million; a significant transfer kitty in Scotland and such an outlay has to result in tangible progress.

A title challenge had to materialise, but the Australian has exceeded all expectations. After 32 league games, Celtic have 79 points and are on course to smash through the 90-point barrier. Rangers have faltered since the winter break, however Celtic have set a ferocious pace and sprinted into the distance.

Postecoglou has endeared himself to the Celtic support with his stylish football and jargon-free language. There is little bluff or bluster from the boss, he does not talk in riddles or try to mislead supporters. His players also appreciate his openness and directness, but more importantly, they value his coaching nous.

Postecoglou has managed to forge a strong bond with the supporters. Celtic fans, enamoured by the product on the pitch, have been rooting for a manager who encountered ridicule when appointed. A 56-year-old Australian, plucked from Japan, was not supposed to prosper in a European league; yet he is on the cusp of etching his name into the history books.

The former Marinos boss is flourishing in a city that can match his football obsession. The self-confessed workaholic has previously managed in countries where the beautiful game is an afterthought, and he is revelling in his current surroundings.

The likeable Aussie has proved to be an inspired appointment, and he will soon be contemplating his victory speech as The Hoops close in on the league title. Postecoglou has managed to heal the rift between the club and the supporters, and his stellar work will lead to recognition from his peers when individual awards are dished out.

Postecoglou is changing the perception of Australian managers, and his success will benefit the next generation of aspiring coaches in his homeland.

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