On the 10th of June, Celtic announced that former Australian national team coach Ange Postecoglou would become the clubs new manager.  After being linked with Eddie Howe for what seemed like months on end, only for the deal to collapse at the last minute, the Hoops fans were left surprised and no doubt concerned at the appointment of the relatively unknown Aussie.

And yet, six months on, he is the darling of the Celtic support.  He has transformed the teams fortunes on the park, rebuilding the squad, keeping chase with the league leaders and doing so with a swagger and flair befitting a Celtic team.  While the Europa Conference isn’t the most glamorous of competitions, the team are looking forward to the prospect European football after Christmas (pandemic permitting). However, the most important signifier of success so far was winning the League Cup at the first time of asking.

The manager has spoke about overcoming adversity and facing into challenges, and he has certainly not had his troubles to seek, with injuries and a tight fixture schedule putting pressure on his threadbare squad.  The season so far has been better than many people expected, and while there have been ups and downs, it has never been anything less than exciting. And the man himself has never been anything less than engaging.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and many pundits, and fans, would have you believe they knew ‘all along’ that Postecoglou would be a success.  This was simply not the case.  Many so called ‘experts’ questioned the credentials of the man from Oz.  Despite winning domestic titles in Japan and his native Australia, where he broke sporting records and is the most successful Aussie Soccer coach, he also had success internationally with the Socceroos.  This winning record also made more impressive by the way it was achieved; high tempo attacking football that earned plaudits from the likes of Brendan Rodgers and Pep Guardiola.

However, it was repeatedly pointed out, he has never managed in Europe, and certainly never at a club the size of Celtic.  ‘He won’t get the time needed’, ‘His style is naive’, ‘He won’t understand the pressure to win’.  These were some of the criticisms he faced, even before he entered the building.

Taking over Celtic is a daunting task for any manager, but taking over Celtic at this stage looked like a huge undertaking.  Postecoglou inherited a shambolic situation. Fifteen players left the building in the first transfer window, including star players like Ajer, Edouard and Christie, and the players remaining had lost the league title by a 25 point deficit.

The fixtures where coming thick and fast as the big Aussie tried to steady the ship, and its fair to say they came too quickly.  Celtic were dumped out of the Champions League and lost their first domestic game to Hearts.  While there were signs of a style emerging that would be aggressive and entertaining, the fact remains the team made their worst start to a campaign in 23 years, collecting only nine points from the first six games.

Despite this,  Postecoglou refused to compromise his vision of a high tempo, free scoring Celtic side.  As things began to improve on the park and the likes of Jota and Kyogo, as well as a reborn Rogic and Ralston, began to find their feet, the fans really started buying into what Ange was selling. Results started to match performances and the League Cup final against Hibernian was Celtic’s seventh victory on the bounce.  In actuality, from the start of October, the men in green and white have played 17 games across all competitions, winning 15, with the sole defeat coming against German side Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League.

In the all important domestic league campaign, Celtic are six points behind the title holders ahead of an important Glasgow Derby on the 2nd of Jan. Given where the team, and the club, where at the end of last year this isn’t the worst position to be in.

A club and fanbase united, a team on the rise, a trophy in the cabinet and a chance to add some much needed reinforcements to the squad coming up and it’s obvious that, despite the less than spectacular start, Ange has done a fine job thus far.  The most exciting thing for fans is that it appears this is only the beginning, with the man himself saying he thinks the team may even be a year away from where he wants them.

On the 10th of June Celtic appointed a relatively unknown figurehead to resurrect the club. Six months on and Ange Postecoglou is becoming a manager that no one will forget.

The phrase ‘dead rubber’ has been thrown around regarding Thursday’s game again Real Betis at Celtic Park. In many ways that is true.  Even a victory would leave Postecoglou’s men one point behind the Spaniards in third place.  The question for the manager then is; Should you rest players for a game with little at stake, especially with a key game around the corner?

On one hand resting players would be a sensible option for the gaffer. Postecoglou went into Sunday’s game against Dundee Utd without several injured players; Welsh, who had been covering for Starfelt, who in turn made his return, had been performing well.  Ralston in many ways has been the story of the season and easily the most improved player at Parkhead. Jota, who has become something of a talisman with his recent displays.  Add to this, the long term injury to Chris Jullien and James Forrest back, but not at full fitness, and the big Aussie doesn’t have his problems to seek.

Despite this, Celtic entered probably their best performance of the season.  Completely dominating a decent United side, the team looked as resilient in defence as they were dangerous in attack. Tom Rogic scored an incredible goal.  Some may say it was Messi-esque.  Some may say it was more like the Argentinians favourite player, Paddy McCourt. Either way it was a special goal amongst a special performance.  Given how light the squad is though, risk of injury in a high intensity game against Betis may be too high a price to pay for putting out a strong team on Thursday night.

There is also the argument that Postecoglou has said he wants players to be resilient enough to play high tempo football as many times a week as is necessary and he may not want to disrupt the momentum the team has been building in recent weeks.  Players thrive on victory and performances like Sundays will mean they will be chomping at the bit to keep the run going.

Another concern with playing a ‘weakened’ side is that, despite the group tables positions being set, there are still things to play for.  Each group stage win in the Europa League is worth €630,000 (£535,000), which is much more attractive than the €210,000 (£178,000) earned for a draw.  Celtic, and the hierarchy specifically, will not want to lose out on another potential income stream.  There are also co-efficient points at stake which, depending on how the season ends, could be very important to European aspirations moving forward. Last, but by no means least, are the fans who have paid their hard earned cash to attend the game.  They deserve a performance, they deserve to be entertained.  Something Ange Postecoglou is all too aware of.

Not quite as simple as a ‘dead rubber’ after all, and to complicate matters worse, Celtic have a key return to domestic competition when they face Motherwell on Sunday.

While it may be cliche to say, ‘all league games are important’ that is definitely an appropriate take on this run of fixtures.  Momentum and consistency have been key for Celtic in recent weeks, with a run of hard fixtures leading up to a Cup Final against His on the 19th and a massive Glasgow Derby on the 2nd Jan.  There is four points separating first and second place in the SPFL at the moment, meaning there is no room for error before the men in green and white get the chance to take the leaders lead to one point with (fingers crossed) a victory in Jan.  It’s almost unthinkable to drop any points before and including that game.

Motherwell have been performing well this season with Tony Watt, who Celtic fans will remember from that historic goal against Barcelona, in form and looking dangerous.  Fir Park has often been ‘sticky’ for the green half of Glasgow, one has just to recall the infamous ‘Helicopter Sunday’ if there is any doubt, so full focus has to be on this game.  Which brings us back to our initial question; Should Postecoglou rest players?

The answer is most likely that there must be a balance.  Wholesale changes may protect the first team regulars from fatigue, but a confidence destroying loss at home would be far from ideal ahead of domestic duties.  A few choice changes, McGregor, Kyogo and Rogic could do with some rest, while some fringe players, Scales, McCarthy and Montgomery, could all use game time.  This balance could be enough to score a morale boosting win against a strong Spanish team at a packed Parkhead, something that Celtic’s players could ride out until the years end. IA tough choice awaits, and to paraphrase a famous Celt; It is never easy to be Celtic manager, but it is always worthwhile.

The December fixture list is always a challenging one.  Games pile up and, when your squad is as light as Celtics, you worry about injury and fatigue.  This festive season is more important than ever for the men in green and white.  A second against third fixture, a cup final and a game against the city rivals are three key matches that Celtic need to win.  These three games could define the season for Ange Postecoglou and his men, one way or another.


Any game against the maroon half of Edinburgh is always a hard and exciting fixture for Celtic.  Fans love to see their team go head to head with the Tynecastle side, with the atmosphere and rivalry second only to their rivals across the city.  Given how this season started, anticipation is even higher.

Falling to a 2-1 defeat in his first competitive league game was far from ideal for Ange Postecoglou.  Losing to Hearts is never a good feeling, doing so as the campaign to reclaim their title from Rangers was beginning was even harder to take.  The fact Hearts had just been promoted from the Championship only added to the anxiety most Celtic fans faced going into this season.  It has to be remembered though, Postecoglou’s men are in much better shape these four months on.

On that fateful day in Edinburgh, Celtic had Scott Bain in goals, Bitton in central defence, Soro in midfield and Edouard up front.  Jota, who has become something of a talisman already this season, wasn’t even in the building and Kyogo had only come out of isolation at midnight. Joe Hart and Cameron Carter-Vickers also hadn’t arrived yet.  Despite this, Celtic actually performed better than the scoreline suggests.  With 74% possession, 90% passing accuracy and 19 shots on goal, the Hoops dominated and, on another day, could have won comfortably.

This Thursday night, fans will be hoping Celtic can show how far they have come and not only right the wrong of the first game, but make sure they put distance between themselves and Hearts in second place.  If the unthinkable happened and Celtic lost, they would find themselves sitting third and potentially seven points behind the League Leaders, something that even the most optimistic of fans would say would be unacceptable heading into the festive season.

League Cup Final

The League Cup has been an ever present in the trophy cabinet at Celtic for the past several seasons.  Last year it, along with the Scottish cup and League title, were torn from the Glasgow giants in brutal fashion.  Celtic’s capitulation was so drastic and devastating to the fans who supported the team so loyally, that it may never be forgotten.

Winning this years Cup Final in convincing style, and bringing the first available trophy of the season back to Paradise, would go some way to healing those wounds.  Postecoglou will know this as much as anyone else.  Make no mistake, despite some people questioning whether he truly ‘understands’ what winning at Celtic means, the big Aussie is all too aware that he must secure victory in his first final as boss.

There may still be some doubts over his ‘style’ or defensive displays at times, but not the most part Celtic fans have been fully supportive of Ange and what he has been trying to do.  Losing to Hibs in the League Cup final, however, would change how fans gauge the progress under the new boss.  Many would have said that getting to a final in his first season, given the shambolic nature the club was in when he took over, would be impressive.  Now he has gotten them there, a win is now imperative.

The other aspect is how a victory will galvanise the squad as they had into the next half of the season. Being able to see a tangible reward for the hard work they have put in, especially after last years failures, will give them the confidence that they can secure even more silverware as the season goes on.  A taste of winning trophies as a Celtic has become commonplace for some, but will be new to the rest.  Either way, sending tall with the League Cup in hand can only help belief as they approach the second Glasgow Derby of the season.

Glasgow Derby

The big one. There is no game more massive to the fans of both clubs than the Glasgow Derby. Given it has been over a year since Celtic scored victory, having already lost to their rivals earlier this year, this particular encounter is huge.  For the fans, defeat is unacceptable. For the players, they know that they owe supporters all over the world a big performance.  For the manager, this is where he will be judged.  Ange Postecoglou has plenty of support from Celtic fans and rightly so, the job he has done so far has been excellent.  The few critics he has have become less vocal over recent weeks, but rest assured, losing to Rangers will provoke a very load response.

In the new managers first game against them, his team, on paper, performed well; 66% possession, at Ibrox, with only one shot less than their opponents, and a better passing accuracy rate paints a decent picture.  The only stat that matters though is the scoreline, with Celtic losing 1-0.

Like the Hearts game, Celtic were still finding their feet. Edouard again started upfront, Ryan Christie was employed in midfield and Kyogo was pushed out wide left, a decision the manager later said he regretted.  Starfelt was still finding his feet and Jota and CCV were not featured.  Given the game was very close, and Celtic dominated much of the play away from home, there is every reason to be confident healing into the game at Parkhead.

Some will point to a change in manager across the city as the ‘best time to face them’ but the reality, whoever hard to accept, is that he has inherited a squad who dominated domestically last year and one who has strength in depth, something that Celtic, at the moment, do not.  This will in no way be an easy game but the prize for victory will be immense.

Three games that could define the season for Celtic and Potecoglou, three must wins and three chances to show that Celtic are back and they will only get better.  Lose and this rebuild could take even longer than expected.

Even the most die hard Celtic fan would admit the club do not historically had a good record away from home in European competition. While the last outing saw the Hoops beat Ferencvaros, gaining a measure of revenge for an early champions league exit at their hands, the prospect of travelling to Germany to face an in form Bayer Leverkusen is daunting.  Not to mention the fact Postecoglou’s men lost the first leg 4-0.  Added to this pressure is the fact that if Celtic don’t take something back to Parkhead for the final group game against Real Betis, and the Spaniards beat the Hungarians, then they cannot finish any higher than third.

Despite already securing a place in the Europa Conference after Christmas, there will be a desire for the team to exceed expectations and qualify for the Europa League proper.  Looking at the managers thoughts ahead of Thursday it seems he believes a result is possible.

‘I know we lost 4-0 but anyone at the game would agree there wasn’t that much of a disparity between the two teams. People say it must have been a thumping but the score doesn’t tell the story of the game.’

On the 30th of September, at a packed Celtic Park, Postecoglou’s men faced German giants Bayer Leverkusen.  Coming off the back of a tremendously exciting outing against Real Betis, despite the loss, hopes where cautiously optimistic about the prospect of getting a result against such esteemed competition.  While Parkhead has been the home of some very famous nights, where some of footballs best teams had fallen short, on this occasion Celtic fell short.  On paper a 4-0 defeat is a drubbing.  To the outside looking in it would seem the Hoops were battered all over the east end of Glasgow.  However, as the manager suggests, the score line doesn’t tell the story of the game.  Kyogo missed a few golden chances, some defensive errors proved very costly and their Goalkeeper was in inspired form.  This may sound like an excuse, but the stats back that assertion up.  Celtic had c.55% possession to Leverkusen’s 45%, they also had the same number of shots, 18 and a better passing success record (c.86% vs 83%).  The German side also had only one less save to make than Celtic.  If the men in green and white can take their chances, a result away may not be as unrealistic as it seems.

‘We are more settled than last time. If I remember correctly, that was Kyogo’s first game back after being out for a month. It was Cal McGregor’s first for a while too. So we weren’t very settled, our form was up and down in that period.’

Since the defeat to the Germans, Celtic haven’t lost a game.  This includes a double header against the Hungarian champs, securing European football after Christmas, closing the game on the league leaders to four points and getting to the final of the Scottish League Cup.  With most of the squad at full fitness and ready for selection, Postecoglou finally has options to bring on from the bench.  This was used to great effect in the Semi Final against St Johnstone, with James Forrest coming off the bench to score the winner.  With Jota shining on the wing, Kyogo up front, McGregor in great form and even Nir Bitton returning to his previous midfield role the team should feel much more confident heading into the fixture.  While the game will seems like a lost cause for some, Celtic fans can take heart from the previous performance and, with a bit of luck, may have smiles on their faces come late Thursday night.

‘I feel we are in a good place to have a go at them. Can we take the game to them and come away with a result?…It’s really important that we do that in games like this. Otherwise it’s all bravado without any substance.’

This encapsulates the managers, sometimes maligned, philosophy.  He will set his team up to attack and play good, high tempo football.  Attack may be the best form of defence.  There have been many times Celtic have venture abroad and sat deep, trying to find a moment to counter attack and ‘steal’ a goal.  If fans where being honest this approach has rarely worked and, if the team where to lose, surely its better to ‘go down swinging’? This is the question which would normally weigh heavily on a managers mind.  Not Ange Postecoglou.  His single minded approach has sometimes been labelled naive but it can never be called boring or unambitious.  If Celtic can play on the front foot in Europe, dominating games the way they do domestically, who knows how far this club can go.  There seems to be no reason this cannot start on Thursday.

When Ange Postecoglou took over as Celtic manager in June, the job ahead of him was huge.  A massive rebuild both on the park, and off, awaited.  The first transfer window of his reign saw fifteen players leave and twelve enter, a huge turnover in playing staff just as the season was beginning.  Add to this turmoil the departure of newly appointed CEO Dom McKay and many fans would have been forgiven for thinking this was going to be another season of pain, especially given Postecoglou’s record of taking at least a season to get his teams playing exciting, competitive and winning football.

A few months on and Celtic find themselves second in the league but within touching distance of their city rivals, gearing up for European football after Christmas and displaying some scintillating attacking play.  All things considered there can be little doubt the new manager has done a very good job thus far.  That work must continue as another transfer window looms.

The manager himself has spoken of the need to improve on certain areas and add to his squad.  As well as additions though, Celtic need to offload more than a few players, as much to balance the books as allow the team to gel and streamlining the numbers is always a good means to achieve this. If this window can be as productive as the last, which saw the likes of Abada, Jota and Kyogo join the ranks, Celtic fans will be in for a happy new year.


While Joe Hart has been an excellent ever present for Celtic this season, there is a feeling of dread if injuries ever take hold.  With the likes of Barkas, Bain and Hazard as back ups, Celtic fans must fear that prospect of losing their new no1.  With this in mind it is clear a new back up keeper is needed.  While Ross Doohan has impressed on loan, his return may not provide a lot of confidence for Celtics backline.  A ball playing Goalkeeper appears an essential.

The left back position was one of the only positions not strengthened last window.  Taylor has just been given a new contract but is he really Celtic’s no1 option?  It would appear like that is still a position up for grabs. The likes of young Montgomery have deputised well but given Liam Scales and Bolingoli have sat on the bench while Juranovic has been played out of position ahead of them, a new defender must be brought in.  A first choice Left Back must be on the shopping list.

Central midfield has been an interesting department for Celtic.  Bitton, McGregor, Soro and McCarthy have all played the sitting midfielder role, to varying effect, this season.  In from of them have been Turnbull and Rogic.  The issues appear if one of those is injured, or out of form, as there is little in the way of cover.  Also, given the high pressing, off-the-ball work Postecoglou demands, it would appear at least two attacking midfielders are needed, possibly as first choice picks with the Aussie and the Scotsman as cover.  That may seem harsh but that area of the pitch is essential for the type of football the manager plays to function.  And he doesn’t seem to mind making the hard calls for the greater good.

Kyogo has been a revelation for Celtic, no doubt, but he can’t play every game.  While there are other strikers available for selection, there are none who offer the pace, movement and work ethic of the Japanese international.  A new Striker, in the mould of Furahashi, is a must have.


With up to four quality players, at least, needed there must be movement toward the exit doors to make room for new arrivals.  Whether on loan or on a permanent deal, the following players look set to leave the club, if not now, then soon.

Liam Scales and Shaw have shown potential in flashes but the lack of game time for both would suggest they are further off the mark than first believed.  Urhoghide is another young man who has raw qualities but limited chances have seemed to point to a bleak future for the former Sheffield Wednesday player. While it was clear that these were ‘development’ players, the best way to really see what they could potentially offer would be to send them out on loan to other SPFL sides.  There is no point warming the bench at this stage of their careers.

Ewan Henderson, Ajeti, Soro, Barkas and Hazard are all players who appear to be square pegs in round hole for Celtic under Postecoglou.  While Ajeti has contributed in spells, his lack of mobility does not fit in the ‘Angeball’ mode, a move away would suit his career best.  Barkas moving to Celtic has been a disaster for both clubs so an exit route is the most desirable for both parties.  Hazard has potential but lacks the ball playing composure needed to play the Postecoglou way, so sadly he will likely move on.  Henderson and Soro are players that many expected to make an impact this season but, unlike the young players mentioned earlier, they are at the stage that even a loan deal looks unlikely to benefit them long term.  It is time for those players and Celtic to shake hands and part ways.

With as many as five players leaving, with a few on loan too, the need to fill the squad numbers is obvious.  Normally asking for four or five first team ready players to come in the January window would be a tall order, Postecoglou has shown that he can face into a challenge and come out stronger.  If Celtic enter this window and come out stronger too, then this season could work out even better than expected.