Ange Postecoglou has reinvigorated Celtic football club in the 2021/22 campaign. The Greek-Australian manager was known to few supporters of the club when appointed. However, through the similarities he shares with Celtic’s background, his distinctive charisma and implementation of free-flowing, attacking football, he has got the backing of the masses. Postecoglou has delivered Celtic’s tenth title in eleven years and today, I’ll be educating you on a man whose name you will be hearing a lot more often over the next few years.
The 2020/21 season was meant to be one in which Celtic would attain one of their greatest achievements. Their tenth Scottish Premiership title in a row lay in wait as did the history books for the players and staff who could aid the club in reaching this monumental landmark. However, it was ultimately one of the club’s worst seasons in the modern era as Covid and fan lockouts combined with gross mismanagement caused a train wreck of a campaign to ensue.
The Hoops would eventually finish a colossal twenty five points behind their city rivals Rangers who would win their first major trophy since re-emerging from the depths of the Scottish lower divisions. As well as failure in the league, Celtic were knocked out of both domestic cups before the quarter final stage. Also, there was misery on the continent with the Bhoys finishing bottom of a Europa League group consisting of AC Milan, Lille and Sparta Prague.
These factors combined meant the summer of 2021 was going to be a cosmic one in Glasgow’s east end. Wholesale change was needed and the failed pursuit of Eddie Howe as manager led to discontent amongst fans. As a result of the failure to entice the now Newcastle boss North of the border, the hierarchy at Celtic turned their attention to other targets. And in doing so, they would appoint a man who would transform the football club, both on and off the field, in the space of less than a year.
Ange Postecoglou was announced as Celtic manager on the 10th of June 2021 and since then, the Greek-Australian has made a hugely significant impact at his new club, leading them back to the top of Scottish football.
Many Celtic fans had no clue who Postecoglou was when he was plucked from the obscurity of Japanese football, but his record of success prior to his appointment at Celtic Park was evident. He won the Asian Cup with the Australian national team in 2015 along with helping his nation qualify for the 2014 and 2018 World Cups. Moreover, Postecoglou enjoyed club success in his homeland with South Melbourne and Brisbane Roar, winning the A-League twice with both clubs. He then spent three years in Japan before coming to Glasgow where he helped Yokohama F. Marinos become J. League champions for only the third time in their history.
In his preliminary Celtic days, Postecoglou would receive great criticism for his expansive style of play which was labelled as “kamikaze” by ex-Celtic manager Neil Lennon, a man who was in charge for the majority of the calamitous campaign we spoke of earlier. However, supporters knew the early signs were there in spite of poor results. The phrase “trust the process” became popular within the Celtic faithful, although it would be questionable if the support for their new manager would be there if he wasn’t such a charismatic, uniting figure.
Postecoglou was born in Greece and settled in Australia at a young age as part of an immigrant family, making his connection with Celtic all the more prominent. The club was founded by an Irish Marist Brother, Andrew Kerins (more commonly known as Brother Walfrid), in order to provide food and alleviate poverty within the Irish immigrant community in Glasgow’s east end. The fact Postecoglou can resonate with the political background and founding values of Celtic makes his relationship with the fans and club itself even deeper and stronger.
Ange is a family man and his passion for the beautiful game mainly came from his Father. Postecoglou saw football as a way to get to know his Dad more as, in his youth, it was traditional for his old man to simply wake up, go to work, come home, go to bed and do it all over again. Postecoglou never saw much of his Father and realised that the only way to get to know the man he loved and idolised was to catch him when his guard was down and this was at the football. The Celtic manager recalls trekking to stadiums at weekends and waking up in the dead of night to take in matches of the top European teams of his younger years.
As well as watching football in his homeland as a youngster, Postecoglou also regularly played. He shared a dressing room full of Scotsmen in Australia who were impassioned Celtic supporters and he knew how his teammates would religiously head to pubs to watch Hoops games at nocturnal hours.
Ange’s knowledge of Celtic football club prior to his assignation as manager was intelligible and when offered the role, he took no hesitations in accepting it. Celtic major-shareholder Dermot Desmond conducted an exclusive interview with club media back in April and spoke of the process which led to Postecoglou’s appointment.
The Irishman admitted he didn’t know who Ange was before consulting him in relation to the role of manager of Celtic. Desmond was struck by the Greek-Australian’s sheer passion and love for football. The man who has optimum power at the club even said how Postecoglou was in no way bothered about things such as the financial package and transfer budget he would be receiving at Celtic. Moreover, the now Hoops boss supposedly quoted a famous Proclaimers song in his interview, saying he would walk 500 miles to manage the club.
Postecoglou was also not at all interested in bringing his own backroom staff with him to Glasgow. He said he was against doing this due to the fact it would make him much more comfortable as his own people would know the way he operates. Instead, Ange worked with what was there and evoked coaches like John Kennedy and Gavin Strachan who were involved in the Celtic setup long before the Greek-Australian’s arrival. Despite these hindrances, the manager has still managed to bring prevalent success to the football club. He has not made it easy for himself in his new surroundings which makes the triumphs he tastes all the more sweet.
Postecoglou’s tight-knit relationship with his backroom team has been made clear on each of the five occasions he’s won the Scottish Premiership manager of the month award. Each time, the fifty six year old has brought new members of staff to be pictured with him all the way from goalkeeping coach Stevie Woods to kit man and club legend John Clark.
The Greek-Australian has added numerous personal awards to his cabinet in recent times after his monumental transformation at Celtic, such as the Scottish Football Writer’s Association manager of the year and PFA Scotland manager of the year. He has assuredly gained the acclaim of those within the Scottish game after a turbulent first few months where he received extensive criticism.
The sheer passion Postecoglou has for the club has unequivocally united Celtic fans. You only have to look at the scenes at the end of Celtic’s 4-1 over Hearts in May, a match which practically secured their status as Scottish champions, where the manager paraded the pitch at full time and conducted those in the stands with his fist pumps and chest beats.
This win over the Jambos brilliantly encapsulated Celtic’s 2021/22 season and Ange Postecoglou’s first as manager.
Just like in the campaign itself, the Hoops suffered an early setback through going a goal down three minutes in, yet stuck to playing their football which would eventually get them their just rewards. Further parallels can be drawn towards the end of the match where the players coming off the bench made an impact on the game, just as Celtic’s January signings did to the season as a whole.
Along with gaining his supporters’ acclaim on a footballing level, Postecoglou has also made quite the impression with the Scottish mainstream media. His witty responses to questions from journalists who attempt to get a headline out of Ange are quite amusing, as is his constant labelling of them as ‘mate’.
However, Postecoglou’s performances in interviews pale in comparison to his impact on Celtic as a whole. I firmly believe if Ange was not in charge, the club would be in a much worse position than they currently are. Prior to his appointment, there was no unity within Celtic as the board and hierarchy were coming under heavy fire because of their dealing of the 2020/21 campaign. However, Postecoglou has superbly bridged this gap between the supporters and club.
Postecoglou’s shutting off of said cavity and his unique correlation with the Celtic fans goes to show how much of an important factor this is in modern football which is becoming more and more commercialised as the years go on. Celtic is a club like no other which holds distinctive history and tradition and if Ange was in charge of a club like RB Salzburg or PSG which are greatly materialistic, his influence and footprint there would be minimal compared to the legacy he is already creating at Celtic.
In terms of play style, the Greek-Australian implements a high pressing, high intensity 4-3-3 which focuses on playing out from the back. This system has brought a unique attacking identity to Celtic’s football which entertains neutrals and rouses supporters off their seats. In attack, the full backs become inverted to play on the ball and create overloads in the midfield whilst the wingers get high and wide. This part of the tactical set-up was brought in by Postecoglou due to him being a full back as a player and his frustrations at his lack of time on the ball. Said tweak has certainly benefited players like Greg Taylor and Anthony Ralston. The latter has enjoyed a renaissance under his new manager along with new signings Joe Hart and Jota, both of whose careers Ange Postecoglou has notably revivified.
Speaking of signings, the overwhelming majority of the players Postecoglou has brought in have been vastly successful in their time at Celtic so far. His knowledge of the Japanese market has been put to good use with the impactful signings of talisman Kyogo Furuhashi, zestful forward Daizen Maeda and midfield maestro Reo Hatate. Meanwhile, the acquisitions of compelling youngsters Liel Abada and Matt O’Riley have brought the prospect of future dividends. Also, established international players like Josip Juranovic and Carl Starfelt have added further soundness and experience along with Giorgos Giakoumakis, whose first touch finishing ability is of optimum quality.
All of the aforementioned players looked to have been handpicked by Postecoglou to suit his play-style. This summer, new head of recruitment Mark Lawwell, who the Greek-Australian previously worked with in Japan, will add a helping hand going into the upcoming transfer window.
In addition, Celtic’s partaking in the Champions League group stages next season as a result of their league triumph brings with it great optimism going into the new campaign as Postecoglou gets set to enter the second phase of his Celtic rebuild and title defense.
It was recently reported by New York Times’ Chief Soccer Correspondent Rory Smith that there are “a lot of people” at Manchester City who “really rate” Ange Postecoglou. They say he is a “really gifted manager” and one would imagine he could be a potential successor to Pep Guardiola in the Etihad dugout. If so, Celtic should enjoy all the time they have with their leader.
Nonetheless, you get the feeling Ange is a man who has an unfeigned connection with Celtic football club and its supporters. This potent relationship has been built upon Postecoglou’s magnetic persona and relatability with the club’s founding values. In spite of reported interest from a Premier League powerhouse in Manchester City, Ange is not the type of person to depart spontaneously and he will undoubtedly see out his dynasty which is just getting started.