Ange Postecoglou: New Celtic boss leaves lasting first impressions

The framing of Celtic’s new manager Ange Postecoglou is of a hick from the footballing sticks. Of the game warfare particular to Glasgow being so alien to the Greek-Australian he will need to clothe himself permanently in flak jacket and tin helmet.

Ange Postecoglou addresses the media at Celtic Park.
Ange Postecoglou addresses the media at Celtic Park.

The first impressions of the 55-year-old suggested otherwise. Postecoglou proved unfussily confident and self-assured in how he presented himself. As a consequence, he radiated a sense of trusting both his coaching capabilities and canniness in any personal dealings to provide him with a protective cloak against anything incendiary. As is right and proper to dig beneath blandishments, we in the written press lobbed certain queries that could be adjudged verbal hand grenades. Without fail, he provided thoughtful responses akin to reinserting the pin.

Postecoglou did not over-promise, did not over-egg the notion that he had been handed a glorious privilege in being handed the keys of Celtic’s footballing mansion. Instead, the subtext of his conversation flipped that on its head. Subtly, he constructed a case for the club being astute to see the light while others clubs have failed to switch-on to the coaching chops he has consistently demonstrated “on the other side of the world”. It was a phrase he deployed several times as he sought to stress that he can father great feats in, at last, having been given the opportunity to impose his methodology, and his wiles, in the footballing cradle of the European game.

Postecoglou’s cogent, considered delivery of his mission statement – to win playing his brand of eye-catching football – could leave no listener in any doubt that he is a leader, not simply capable of taking those under his charge with him, but demanding they do.

He cuts an imposing figure for someone who measures up to only 5ft 8ins, his square, squat frame that of a prop forward. And like those front row battlers, he gave the impression of a man who bounds towards any challenges… without giving any quarter. He knows the task facing him at Celtic offers no guarantees, at home or abroad. Indeed, it was possible to read between the lines that he understands the Champions League qualifying campaign with which his tenure properly gets under way in three-and-a-half weeks could prove a bridge too far for a squad that will only be in the nascent stage of “extensive rebuild” by then.

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Even as he acknowledged that his way might mean the highway for non-believers, non adherents, an insight into Postecoglou’s mindset he provided in ruminating on the influence on him of Frank ‘Mad Dog’ Arok, the man who awarded him his two Australian caps and to whom he was assistant at South Melbourne when handed his first coaching role in 1993.

“It was not so much the playing style,” he said of learning from the Yugoslavian-Australian. “He was an unbelievable motivator and it resonated with me that his ability to make players believe that sometimes they were better than they are was pretty influential. He was unbelievable, passionate and energetic. He had them literally mowing the lawns to make sure it was the right length. An incredible man.”

As Celtic find themselves at their lowest ebb in two decades, Postecoglou will require to do the incredible to make good on the game smarts he patently possesses.

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