Celtic reaction: Ange Postecoglou yesterday's man, Joe Hart joins elite club, no awkward Hibs reunion
So long, farewell?
In the run up to the Scottish Cup final Ange Postecoglou had been diligent in his determination not to discuss his possible departure, saying his focus had to be on the Hampden showpiece and the delivery of Celtic’s latest Treble. But he proved just as dogged in his avoidance of the subject post-match.
“You know, I deserve to enjoy this…Everyone works hard, makes sacrifices to enjoy these moments. And I understand that other people who aren’t invested in it want to ask these questions. But for me right now, the most important thing is that we reflect and just be in the moment of creating something special.”
In the immediate aftermath, the Celtic fans will have understood. They too wanted to party - enjoy what could be one last fling before their latest manager is lured south. But as early as the morning after, the curiosity will, once again, pique.
These are the people who are invested, who will be there supporting the club long after Postecoglou and every member of the squad has moved on or hung up their boots, and they want some clarity.
Postecoglou’s time at Celtic may prove short-lived but he knows that time is something of a luxury commodity when in charge of a team where instant gratification and results is demanded. Patience is not in abundance and while he may want to savour the moment, the moment the punters’ hangovers subside, his own words could be chucked back at him.
“We don’t stop” has become something of a mantra and while Postecoglou is a popular manager and the majority of fans would love to see him stay, they have been in this movie before. With 11 titles in 12 season, managers have come and gone. Some were missed more than others but the fact that the club managed to keep on winning offers fans succour. The fact is no manager or player is bigger than a club.
There would appear to be a winning DNA, and there are solid foundations to build on. Over their years successive managers have also left a legacy of strong character in the dressing-rooms, men who are used to, and enjoy, winning, where demands are made internally, with men like Scott Brown and now Callum McGregor setting standards. That helps with smooth transition when managers set off on new challenges. This time will be no different.
Postecoglou has been an undoubted success. He has won five out of six trophies, he has joined the group of men who have delivered Trebles but the fact that Celtic now hold the world record for domestic Trebles, at eight, proves he is not a unique talent in that regard.
Jock Stein, Martin O’Neill, Brendan Rodgers and Neil Lennon, all delivered that dominance before him. And, it is not unthinkable, given the gulf in finances between Celtic, Rangers and the rest of Scottish football, that someone will oversee it again in the future.
The words - or lack of reassuring words - and actions of Postecoglou over the past week would suggest he is off. Few will blame him. But now that the curtain has fallen, they will be looking for him to exit stage left, in timely fashion. Celtic don’t stop for any men. Those who are extremely invested want clarity, and a replacement. They have a new season to plan for.
If Postecoglou heads to Tottenham fans will be sorry but the moment he heads through the exit he will be yesterday’s man. That’s the nature of football. Especially at a club like Celtic, where, as he himself has said, they just don’t stop.
Joining an exclusive group
Joe Hart had very little to do at Hampden - he didn’t even need to pick the ball out of his net when Daniel Mackay scored as Inverness Caledonian Thistle did that themselves in their rush to make the most of the remaining time - but he still left the national stadium with a newly-acquired membership to a very exclusive club.
The former England goalkeeper became just the third player to have claimed a clean sweep of all domestic trophies in England and Scotland.
Having previously bagged the English title, the English League Cup and the FA Cup with Manchester City, and the Viaplay Cup and a Scottish Premiership winners’ medal with Celtic, Saturday’s Scottish Cup triumph completed the set.
Kenny Dalglish was the first man to do that, with Celtic and Liverpool, then Rangers and Manchester United winger Andrei Kanchelskis followed suit. Now, with all six major domestic trophies, Hart joins the elite band.
When Daniel Mackay netted a late goal for Inverness Caledonian Thistle there must have been a few nervous (and, no doubt, peeved) individuals at his parent club, Hibs.
Due to return to the Leith club for pre-season after an enjoyable loan spell in Inverness, there could have been some awkward hellos if his goal had spurred on a late Highland comeback at Hampden as a Celtic win was needed to allow the Premiership’s fifth-place finishers, Hibs, through the side door and into Europe.
The fact that Celtic saw out the final win 3-1 means that Hibs manager Lee Johnson and his squad can now plan for an enticing season opener against foreign opposition, when they enter the second qualifying round of the Europa Conference League, on July 27 and August 3, days before the first Premiership fixtures.
The Hampden result - and Hibs’ consequent European invitation - means that Hearts, who finished fourth in the league, will now start their European journey one round later.
They enter the Europa Conference League in the third qualifying round, with their opening tie scheduled for August 10 and 17, just after the domestic league campaign gets underway.
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