Celtic’s Ange Postecoglou so close to record feat - but manager offers cautionary note

Celtic’s hosting of Hearts on Sunday presents Ange Postecoglou with the opportunity to equal the longest unbeaten league run across his near 25-year coaching career.

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou is in jocular mood at the club's training session on Friday but says his role is to make sure his players smile as they sweat.(Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou is in jocular mood at the club's training session on Friday but says his role is to make sure his players smile as they sweat.(Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Avoiding defeat against the Tynecastle side would bring up 36 top-flight games at the helm without loss, to match what he presided over at Brisbane Roar between 2010 and 2011. It might be considered reason for the Australian to feel pretty chuffed with a stunning year in Scottish football. Instead, he teases a cautionary tale from the potential parallel.

“Everyone talks about the 36 games but they don't talk about what happened after it. We lost five straight away after that and it was a great leveller,” the Celtic manager said. “Look, the run we are on is testament to the boys and the ability to overcome the challenges we had. [But] what's more important right now for me is that we are undefeated in three this season and we have a fourth at the weekend. We need to focus on that and try to win it.”

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A comparative analysis of the two major unbeaten league runs of Postecoglou’s trackside days isn’t straightforward. The wage cap policy in Australia then made the Roar run inconceivable. It is unrivalled across any of what they call codes in that country’s sporting arena, and eclipsed a 35-game sequence by rugby league side Eastern Suburbs that had stood 74 years. However, the pressure he is under at Celtic, and which was oppressive after he lost three of his first six cinch Premiership encounters, is in a different stratosphere to anything he experienced in his homeland.

“Absolutely, there are huge expectations here,” he said. “The Brisbane run was totally different as you aren't supposed to go on that kind of run in Australia. That's why it's a record for all sports, not just football. All the sports in Australia have some sort of equalisation or salary cap. They are designed to stop that kind of run happening, so it was a different scenario. At Celtic, we are expected to win. That's not new, it's embedded in the club and the players have really embraced that part of being here. They understand that when you represent Celtic you are expected to win, but we don't talk about that. What we talk about is expectation around our performances. If we get our football right, the results tend to take care of themselves. In that sense, I don't think the players have felt the same sort of pressure about winning. Because they know that the real pressures lies in us performing at the levels we know we can.”

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Perhaps that impacts on the real joie de vivre his Celtic players are exhibiting going about their business with such aplomb. Not that Postecoglou simply goes along with any notion that winning is inspiring a chuckle-fest among his squad. "Enjoyment and happiness in a sporting environment is about enjoying the fruits of your labour,” the Celtic manager said. “Being happy isn't about coming in and having a laugh every day. It's about working hard and being the best you can be. They should have a smile on their face as they are living their dreams. My role is to make sure that while they are smiling, they are also sweating.”

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