On June 10th, the day of his unveiling, the fans were asked to take a leap of faith by both the manager and new CEO Dom McKay. “The key for me is that people believe in me,” said Postecoglou when he took over as manager of Celtic. He asked for belief but there were many questions to be answered; Could an unknown, at least on the European stage, really be the answer? How far behind Eddie Howe was he in the selection process? With such a huge rebuild on the horizon, and Champions League qualification at stake, would he have the time and resources needed?
While he has had varying degrees of success so far, with answers to some of those questions still forthcoming, one thing he can be sure of is that the fans are starting to believe and, judging by the impressive performances on the park, so are the players. This optimism is despite missing out on the opportunity to progress in the Champions League, and losing the first domestic league game of the season. Such a start would normally have added pressure to an already treacherous period to navigate and yet there is a confidence around the club. There has, albeit slowly, been a strong recruitment drive with the new additions hitting the ground running and results since that night in Edinburgh have improved dramatically. The buzz around Celtic Park is tangible, with fans eager to vanquish the ghosts of last season and embrace the new manager.
So how has Ange Postecoglou managed to win over the Celtic fans so quickly?
Ange ‘Gets it’
Understanding what makes Celtic a special club is a simple task for fans. They know the history; from the charitable origins to the Lisbon Lions and back again there has always been a romance about the club. More than a few players and managers over the years, who haven’t grown up Celtic minded, have come to embrace what Celtic, as a club, stands for. They have become enamoured with the club, and while they my not have come to the club a fans, they leave the club as fans. Ange Postecoglou is a different case. He is from the other side of the world, never played or coached in Europe and has only been in the city a matter of months and yet, from day one, he seems to have the attitudes, the human qualities and values fans want in a manager. He is not belting out the ‘Fields of Athenry’ or talking about times he has visited the stadium or how great the fans are, but he has spoken about the value of hard work, the fact he was brought up to respect and understand the fortunate position he is in, his working class background and his desire to bring ‘good people’ to the club. None of this is more evident than in his interview regarding the horrendous racial abuse aimed at Kyogo Furuhashi. ‘Just be a decent human being’ he said when asked if this behaviour was a result of education. He went on to say that Glasgow is a great city because of its multiculturalism and as ‘an immigrant’ he was proud of that. Celtic have always been a club open to all, founded to help the poor immigrants in Glasgow. If ever a man and a club were to be matched on a value system, it is Postecoglou and Celtic.
Playing the ‘Celtic Way’
The great Jock Stein once said, ‘The best place to defend is in the opposition’s penalty box.’ Much like the human qualities and values that Celtic fans are so keen to cherish, the footballing style is something that obviously dominates the minds of the faithful. Playing the ‘Celtic Way’ is much more than a slogan, it is a style that keeps people entertained, that players love to be part of and that, most importantly, brings success with a swagger. Much like the type of man Postecoglou appears to be, he is also the right type of manager for Celtic. From the outset he has stated his team ‘never stop’ constantly attacking and pressing, determined to score goals and keep people on their feet. This strength of philosophy and vision, while single minded and risky at times, is what fans have been crying out for. While last season the performances where flat and unimaginative, this seasons team has displayed, especially recently, a flair and a hunger for goals that has blown the opposition away. There are two massive games approaching, at time of writing, that have some questioning whether it is time Postecoglou changes such a high risk approach, but he will stand firm. This desire to not only win, but win in a way that thrills and excites anyone who watches is exactly the type of manager Celtic need. There may be a few bruises and black eyes along the road, but playing this expansive, aggressive, attacking style is very much ‘The Celtic Way’.
Re-energising the players
While it’s clear as a man he shares the clubs values, and as a manager shares its philosophy, it is a coach where his quality is shining through. The core squad of players who won a quadruple treble looked a shadow of their former selves last season; lacklustre, unsure of themselves, low on confidence and directionless. Those players who had achieved so much looked gone. Enter Ange Postecoglou. Earlier the recruitment process was mentioned and there is no doubt clever business was conducted to bring Kyogo and Abada, in particular, to the club. These players have really hit the ground running. However it is the improvements made to the existing core group that really show how positively Ange has affected the club. Callum McGregor has excelled in the captains role and is putting in some of the best performances of his time at the club. David Turnbull looks to be thriving in the system. Stephen Welsh has made the Centre Back position his own and Anthony Ralston, one of the most unfairly derided players in recent memory, has won over a skeptical support. All of these examples have illustrated how much influence a good coach can have on a team. You can add Christie, Edouard and Taylor into that camp as well, but the stand out example of a player rejuvenated is Tom Rogic. The big Australian has looked like a new player, strolling about Celtic Park like a Rolls Royce and that is down to the influence of the man at the helm, Ange Postecoglou.
There will be ups and downs this season, but the feeling that something special is happening at Celtic is tangible. On June 10th Celtic fans were asked to take a leap of faith in the face of one of the biggest rebuilds in the clubs history. The fans have done their part and it looks like Ange Postecoglou will do his.