As another international break approaches, fans of domestic football can pause for breath. The great rebuild that Celtic have been going through may only be at the beginning, but for many it has already been a rough journey. Ange Postecoglou’s arrival was greeted with a mixed reaction. That mix of views, even at this early stage, threatens to divide a support that is still suffering from last seasons shambles displays. To help understand each viewpoint it’s important to look at the plussed and minuses of the Postecoglou revolution so far.
A dreadful run of away results have blighted Postecoglou’s Celtic record until Jota’s late winner against Aberdeen. Losses against Hearts, Rangers and Livingston have left the would-be title challengers languishing in mid table. While most fans are willing to give Postecoglou time to turn the clubs fortunes around, even the most patient of souls will be getting anxious looking at the teams current form. Despite the mitigating circumstances around the rebuilding and lack of background support, any Celtic manager with this squad of players must be expected to do better. The visit to Tynecastle may have come while the team was short on players, Ibrox was a much tighter game than the previous seasons fixture, which Celtic lost 4-1, but losing at the Tony Macaroni Arena and dropping points at home to Dundee Utd leave a back taste in the mouths of the Celtic faithful. Fans have shown faith in the method, but that must be rewarded with wins. Winning the league may be out width the current team this season, but a strong challenge must be mounted. The supporters need to see progress or the murmurs of discontent will become louder and louder.
One of the biggest selling points when appointing Ange Postecoglou was his promise to bring on the youth at the club. Building players for the future through the academy and allowing fans to see ‘one of their own’ don the hoops was something to be excited about. The launch of the ‘B’ team into the lower division may have disjointed efforts to bleed in youngsters but there are many still in the first team squad who haven’t featured much, or at all. When the manager is facing three fixtures in quick succession, and the players needing a rest, you’d expect the likes of Liam Shaw or Ewan Henderson to feature at some point. Liam Scales, Dane Murray, Owen Moffat and Osaze Urhoghide are all players who could have expected to feature more than they have. It raises the question; Are they not good enough or is Postecoglou not as willing to trust youngsters as he claimed?
On the subject of changing things up, the system Postecoglou plays, or ‘Angeball’ as its affectionally called, has become a bone of contention for some. While fans love to see flair football, they also like to see their teams defend well. Particularly in Europe, where the standard is generally higher than domestically, ‘Angeball’ has come under the spotlight of criticism. Seen as naive and, at times ‘Kamikaze’ in its approach, fans have been asking ‘isn’t it time to change’ especially on the back of losing 4-0 at home to German giants Bayer Leverkusen. Ange, however, has stated that he will not deviate from his path. While that attitude is admirable, many feel a more common sense approach to these games would serve him and the team better. If the players at the club do not have the skill to play that system, then why continue?
On the flip side of that argument, fans have been enthralled at times with the football on display. Back to back 6-0 drubbings at home left the supporters and pundits purring. All out attack, focus on scoring and ‘never stopping’ have created a brand of football that encompasses, in many ways, ‘The Celtic Way’. While there have been some disappointing results, there was never any doubt that this style of play would take a while to put into play consistently. Players already at the club would need to improve massively on last seasons fitness, bravery on the ball and inventiveness. New players at the club would need time to settle into a new city and get to know their teammates. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The potential on display, however, has led to an optimism that, when ‘Ange ball’ clicks into full gear, it will brush any opposition aside. If Celtic fans can remain patient through the rough beginnings, they could see a side that not only gets back to dominating domestically, but swinging ‘punches’ with Europe’s big hitters.
Creating magic on the park isn’t just down to the manager. When all is said and done, and that whistle blows, only the eleven men on the park really matter. They are the ones who dictate whether or not the teams wins, draws or losses. In the transfer window just passed, Celtic saw 15 players leave the club with only 12 brought in. Whether all of these incoming talents where signed as definite starters and not just ‘projects’ remains to be seen but there are already a few who have made a mark on the Celtic support. Joe Hart has added security and confidence to a position that was becoming something of a joke amongst fans. Carter-Vickers looks solid at the centre of defence, with a physicality and ball playing ability Celtic have missed. Juranovic has shown in flashes he can add an extra attacking threat to the full back areas and last, but not least, has been Kyogo Furahashi. The Japanese international has been excellent so far for the club, his movement, attitude and goals have given the Parkhead faithful a new talisman to adore. With the improvement in players like Ralston, Rogic and Captain McGregor, Postecoglou has shown that, if he gets another few transfer windows to complete his masterplan, the fans will see some real quality on the park.
Off the park is where Ange Postecoglou has impressed as much as on it. His natural charisma has shown through in interviews. The way he has dealt with the press, dealing with sniping questions with ease and putting his point clearly across, has led fans to believe he will defend the club against any detractors. Most of the good will comes from how he dealt with the abhorrent of abuse aimed at Kyogo. He didn’t dive into cliched responses or rage against a system ingrained in division. He instead told the media that this wasn’t and education issue but a people issue; just be a good human. He spoke at how Glasgow’s multiculturalism struck chord with him. Being an immigrant himself he knew how important diversity was in creating a great city, a value close to the hearts of every Celtic fan who truly knows their clubs history. He wants to play a style that honours the history of Celtic Football Club and all the greats who have gone before, and he never wants Celtic to be underdogs regardless of opponent. These may be romantic beliefs and they may seem unattainable at the moment, but what is Celtic if not a club built on defying the odds and building a legacy.