Aussie Ange Postecoglou has been set the enormous task of restoring Scottish giants Celtic’s supremacy over bitter rivals Rangers after being officially appointed the club’s new manager.
The 55-year-old former Socceroos boss has signed a 12-month rolling contract and fills the vacancy left open when Neil Lennon resigned in late February.
It represents one of the biggest assignments handed to an Australian in world football, and while this side of the world will be watching on with hope and interest, the pressure will be immediately on Postecoglou in Scotland.
The initial shock of being linked with the job appears to have passed, with Scottish media and fan reaction now focused on the enormity of the task facing the Australian.
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In an announcement media release Postecoglou described the new gig as “one of the greatest honours in football” and in a televised interview with the club he spoke of his passion for attacking football and how his had pictures of Celtic and Scotland hero Kenny Dalglish on his will as a kid.
Graeme McGarry, writing for Scotland’s The Herald, said it would have been comforting words for Celtic fans given “there is a narrative surrounding this left-field appointment that suggests Postecoglou is some clueless outsider who couldn’t possibly know what he is letting himself in for”
“His working life so far may well not suggest ample preparation for the pressure and intensity that awaits him in Glasgow, but by relaying this story (about Dalglish), he was making it clear to Celtic supporters that he understands the principles upon which their club stands, and is fully aware of what he is expected to produce on the field for them.
“If indeed there is any substance to the rather woolly concept of ‘The Celtic Way’, then Postecoglou would – on the face of it – appear to have a philosophy that dovetails with the theory perfectly.”
McGarry said the biggest challenge facing the Australian would be time.
“A theme of the many testimonials backing him in recent weeks has been the need to give him time to get his ideas across,” he wrote.
“It will be fascinating to see if Postecoglou can get enough results to keep a notoriously impatient legion of fans happy after what will be a short honeymoon period while his players are still getting used to his methods.
“For his part, he certainly seems confident he can overcome such early obstacles, with his thoughts already occupied by leaving a lasting legacy at the club.”
Former Celtic star Chris Sutton used a somewhat-bizarre cricket analogy to describe the appointment and Ewan Murray, writing for The Guardian, also declared it a huge gamble.
“With Scotland’s 2021-22 title winners (Rangers) almost guaranteed a Champions League group stage place for the following campaign, Celtic have gambled on Postecoglou when the stakes could barely be higher,” Murray wrote.
“And make no mistake, this is a gamble; taking any coach into territory so far from their natural habitat dictates that. Postecoglou has no connection with Celtic and no working experience at a club of their stature.
“…It may well be that Postecoglou is a fine manager. Enough learned judges, particularly in his native Australia, certainly think so. He has a commitment to attacking football and a single-mindedness which should serve him well. He looks capable of shrugging off Old Firm noise.
“Yet background questions linger. Postecoglou, we are told, needs time to implement his philosophy. That commodity is not available to Celtic. Howe’s volte face was confirmed on 28 May. Postecoglou – confirmed on 10 June – has to quarantine when he arrives in Scotland. The statement that confirmed his arrival included input from “incoming” and “outgoing” chief executives. There was no detail about broader structural change. Small issues, but ones that hardly help the optics.”
“… Postecoglou has to rebuild a team and oversee a complete change in external attitudes in his first job in European football. He is 55. Albeit this continent is not where football starts and ends, it is fair to question why no club of substance in Europe hired him before, especially after guiding Yokohama to league success in 2019.”
Andrew Smith, writing for The Scotsman, said while Postecoglou was seen by some as a “random, rushed, poor second choice” after a deal fell through with Eddie Howe, there could be a silver lining.
“Oddly, though, the biggest plus of Postecoglou might also be that he is not Howe. Celtic’s powerbrokers initial instincts on all matters across the past 12 months have proved hideously flawed,” Smith wrote.
“Postecoglou might not have been the man that they, or the club’s fanbase, originally wanted.
“He could, though, be precisely the sort of man they need – big in stature, personality and unshakeable convictions over fizzing, front-foot attacking football in Celtic’s best traditions. While Howe ultimately slinked away from the febrile world of the Scottish game, Postecoglou has bounded towards it, rubbing his hands and with chest puffed out.”
Smith also wrote the obstacles to success should “frighten the wits” out of Postecolgou.
“The club is at its lowest ebb for two decades following Rangers’ romp to the championship by 25 points. It is fewer than seven weeks until Celtic contest the opening leg of their third round Champions League qualifier. With their previous reliance of loan players no longer in their fold and doubts surrounding the immediate futures of Leigh Griffiths, Edouard and Ajer, even a skeleton XI would be difficult to construct.
“When it comes to the striking department, central defence and the full-back roles – to say nothing of the goalkeeping issues – having merely the bare bones is likely to require a raft of signings. There is little precedent for new arrivals coming good in opening European sorties with which Celtic begin their season…The Champions League might then be a write-off. If that proves the case then Postecoglou, however unfairly, will immediately be on the back-foot – even if this is where he demands his teams never find themselves.”
Kieran Devlin, writing for The Athletic, agreed Postecoglou would be starting at a “severe disadvantage” with the first team squad in total disarray.
But he said the Australian has a “hell of a career” behind him suggesting he could make it work, with glowing references from former players perhaps even more telling than his successes.
The piece included a staggering reference from A-League legend Thomas Broich who described his former Brisbane Roar boss Postecoglou as “a very visionary man”.
“He outlines his plans and playing philosophy. As a player you think, ‘I’ve heard these things before. They’re just pretty words’. But when I actually got to work with him, he delivered to the extreme. I could not believe it. With him, it was not just words. He had such a crystal-clear plan, and he stuck to every single word of it.”