How Celtic's UEFA Conference League opponents Bodo/Glimt could teach Scottish football 'a lesson'
It’s not Ange Postecoglou’s job to talk up the merits of the opposition but he knows there is much to admire about tonight’s opponents at Parkhead in a European Conference League play-off first leg clash.
On the face of it, there is little linking Celtic with Bodo/Glimt, a team with limited European pedigree before the last couple of seasons. The hosts tonight have of course won the European Cup and been in another final while also coming close to lifting the Uefa Cup in 2003.
Postecoglou is now entertaining thoughts of winning the inaugural Conference League. There is no reason why the Norwegians cannot harbour similar ambitions as they return from a training camp in Spain ahead of the start of a new domestic season in April.
Bodo/Glimt have already shocked the continent with a 6-1 Europa Conference League win over Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma in October.
Postecoglou has applauded the side’s ambition and style of play. He can see why some say it mirrors what he is in the process of implementing at Celtic.
Bodo/Glimt have won successive titles in Norway and are demonstrating how a fast, pressing style of football and a high line of engagement can bring success. Manager Kjetil Knutsen has turned the team from favourites for relegation from the Eliteserien to two-times champions. They also finished runners-up three seasons ago. Postecoglou accepts there are comparisons to be drawn between the style of play Celtic fans are enjoying under him and that which is proving so rewarding for the Norwegians.
“They have a similarity,” he said. “There are differences within that, but they are definitely a team that like to have the ball and be aggressive with their press. I think that is why it is going to be a good game. Credit to him [Knutsen]. I’ve been really impressed with the way he has put the team together and the football they play.”
According to Postecoglou, of more interest is what sort of inspiration Bodo/Glimt can provide for Scottish clubs who are closer to them in terms of supporter numbers and financial wherewithal. He has already spoken before about style of play not being dependent on quality of player. He believes Bodo/Glimt can show the way forward for the likes of Dundee United and Aberdeen to re-assert themselves on the European stage playing the kind of football fans want to watch. Even teams like Motherwell and St Mirren can see what's possible.
“It (Bodo) goes to show you that you don’t need a big budget or be a big club,” he said. “There’s probably a lesson in that here with Scottish clubs that you can play that kind of football even if you are not a big club or have a big budget.
“It’s a city of 50,000 people,” he added. “The stadium holds 6,000. But you get the right coach in and the right sort of mentality, then you can play that kind of football as well.”
Celtic’s ambitions will always be larger in scale. They have the pressure that comes with playing in front of 60,000 supporters bearing down on them.
It’s just as well they have someone like Postecoglou in charge. He shares the fans' hopes and dreams. He had designs on winning the World Cup with Australia when he took them to Brazil in 2014. He now wants to be the man in charge when Celtic double their European trophy haul.
“What’s the point of rolling up on Thursday night if you don’t think you can win something?” he asked yesterday. “For me, it’s about constantly exposing our players to this level and playing our football.
“I think you saw it during our (Europa League) group stage. We ended up winning three games in a tough group. It’s not like we struggled through it, even though we didn’t get through.
“We saw improvement there. We are in a different competition now, but you look at the calibre of teams left and there are still some fantastic clubs represented.
“We have a big challenge facing Bodo. You play in these things to try and have success. Why miss the opportunity if the opportunity is before you? If we don’t succeed, then we dust ourselves off and go again next year. But you don’t enter something to just participate and potentially miss an opportunity to create something.”
Celtic haven’t lost since they were last in action in Europe when they conceded twice in the last eight minutes to lose 3-2 against Bayer Leverkusen in November. They also lost four goals at home against the same side. Postecoglou's side look a lot more solid now.
“We improved on that during the campaign,” he said. “We realised our play was effective even against the very best, but we also got punished for mistakes.
“I think the players adjusted to that and understood we needed to be more efficient with our play and not give opportunities to opposition.
“That can only keep improving by measuring against the best and that’s what Europe lets you do. I’d like to think we are in a better place than we were at the beginning of our campaign.
“And wherever we are now, if we get through this first knockout phase, we improve again and we would have to because, if we get past Bodo, the next opponent would be just as tough if not tougher.
“I don’t get hung up on the individual things that people do,” he added. “Like defenders and conceding goals. If we concede a goal, it goes up against Celtic’s name, not the name of an individual. It’s the whole team. We work hard as a team. It’s why our defensive record is so good. We defend as a team.
“It’s why our attacking is so good. We attack as a team and have multiple goalscorers without having to rely on one or two. That’s the way we want to be.”
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