Ange Postecoglou: Celtic boss recalls Greek 'chaos' and the local priest questioning his substitutions

The third division of Greek football may seem like a million miles away from life as the Celtic manager.

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou thinks his brief time in Greece helped his coaching career . (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou thinks his brief time in Greece helped his coaching career . (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

But Ange Postecoglou insists his humble beginnings were key to him becoming Australia's most successful ever coach and the first from his country to manage a top-flight club in Europe.

His spell in charge of Panachaiki from March to December 2008 were his first steps into professional football club management following a stint coaching the Australian national U17 and U20 sides.

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He got the job after Con Makris, an Australian-based businessman bought the club and appointed him.

The VIBE Awards. Pic: Fife Photo Agency.
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Despite being born in Athens before emigrating to Melbourne with his parents aged five, Postecoglou admitted he was viewed as a foreigner but felt the experience was an enlightening one that he has carried with him throughout his career and into his current role at Celtic Park.

“I still use some of the methods I worked on and put into practice during that time in Greece. Absolutely," he said.

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“That was a tricky time, and probably the only time in my career, where there was a little bit of uncertainty.

“I was working pretty regularly up until then but my tenure with the national youth teams came to an end.

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“I was struggling to get a job back in Australia. I always had belief in my own abilities but I then got the chance to go to Greece.

“Even though I am Greek, they saw me as a foreigner - as an Aussie.

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“My command of the Greek language wasn’t great at the time, but it was an important period for me.

“I had all these theories in my head about coaching when I took on that job, so to be able to work on them was great.

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“It allowed me to experiment on what worked, and what didn’t.

“I had a group of players who were totally different to my own culture and upbringing in Australia.

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“But I just found the experience really rejuvenating in terms of my career and my beliefs. It really helped me going forward.”

Greek football fans are known for displaying their passion but the level of scrutiny he faced – which included the local priest questioning his decisions – only gave Postecoglou satisfaction and a drive to succeed in demanding environments.

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“I loved the chaos of Greece. I love Greek football and how you go from one extreme to the other so quickly.

“The same people who wanted to carry you on their shoulders after a win would be having a go at you outside the bus seven days later.

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“I could see their faces - it was exactly the same people.

“But I loved that. It sort of lit a fire inside me at the time and since then, things have gone well.

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“That time in Greece just showed me that I love being around passionate football people.

“The fans were very passionate and if we lost, they’d let you know they weren’t happy.

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“I remember once we lost a game and I was crossing the street the next day. The local priest stopped me.

“He started questioning my substitutions in the game and that summed it up.

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“The whole city was enraptured by their team and I loved that.

“It just showed me that I was comfortable in that sort of environment. There was nothing I needed to fear.

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“Working under that scrutiny wasn’t going to change me, or give me stress.

“Greece showed me that was the type of environment that I did want to be in.

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“Before I came to Celtic, people weren’t warning me as such, but they tried to prepare me for what I was going to face.

“But what they didn’t realise is that this is exactly what I want. This is where I want to be, where I have always wanted to be.

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“That part of it wasn’t daunting for me at all."

Coaching has been part of Postecoglou's make-up since his youth. He took his first steps on the ladder at the age of 12 after taking charge of the Year 7 team at Prahran High School in Melbourne.

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“Looking back, it seems crazy. To me more than anyone else," he reflected.

“I don’t know why people were listening to a 12-year-old but there must have been something about me that made them.

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“It’s quite bizarre when you think about it, but it’s probably why I have always felt more of a coach.

“I struggled with my playing career as I just felt that my destiny was to be a manager.

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“That was the space where I always felt most comfortable.

“I would have been annoying as a 12-year-old coach. In fact, I am sure that I would have annoyed a lot of people.

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“But that’s when the coaching career started.

“There hadn’t been a soccer team before and we put a group together.

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“We had a music teacher who said he would take the team but there wasn’t any coaching or training.

“He would sit and mark his homework while we all just had a kickabout.

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“After the first few sessions, I took control. It sounds bizarre because I was so young.

“But for some reason, I took control of the whole thing and people listened.

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“I didn’t just pretend to be the coach. I picked the team, we had sessions and I told everyone what to do.

“Looking back, I think I got power hungry!

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“I was a player, coach and captain and one of my closest mates, we are still friends to this day, wanted to bring me down a peg or two.

“He decided that the team would have a vote to see if I should continue as captain.

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“We had the vote and it ended up being unanimous.

“I said to my mate, ‘How could it be unanimous if you called the vote in the first place?’

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“And he said, ‘I voted for you too. You are the best person for the job but I just wanted to see if other people would vote for you!’

“I was running the show and to this day, I don’t understand why anyone listened to me. I wasn’t anything special!

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“My mates still say to me, ‘Why were we listening to you back then?’

“But we ended up winning the under-12s state championship at South Melbourne’s ground.”

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