How Ange Postecoglou proved he was no Celtic flannel-merchant in first Spurs media conference

Rejection can induce paranoia in the minds of the spurned. It was inevitable then a section of the Celtic support would be so beset by Ange Postecoglou swiftly departing their club to take over at Tottenham Hotpsur.
New Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou fields a question during his first press conference as Spurs boss.New Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou fields a question during his first press conference as Spurs boss.
New Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou fields a question during his first press conference as Spurs boss.

In the month since the Australian did so, their hurt over the move has led them to conclude they were ultimately played. That the 57-year-old was a flannel-merchant whose professions of some deeply-felt bond with their institution and its faithful – which they articulated as his really “getting” Celtic – were sentiments merely uttered for expediency. Easily tossed aside for the bright lights of London and the irresistible dazzle of the English Premier League. Anyone in that camp would have had serious cause to rethink such rancour in watching Postecoglou conduct his first media conference as Spurs manager on Monday afternoon. As would be expected, in this journalistic joust he displayed the truly special emotional intelligence and teasing wit that were facets regularly witnessed across his two hugely successful campaigns in Scotland. Equally, though, the sit-in proved arresting for what he didn’t say.

The late Bill Shankly used to talk of “feeding them toffee” in such scenarios to ingratiate, and disarm. Postecoglou isn’t wired up that way, though. Consider the following. When it came to Spurs and Celtic, he had no compunction about describing one as “a massive football club” and the other as “a special football club” that would be on the “bucketlist” of those “you want to manage”. It leapt out, frankly, that it was Celtic he chose to accord with that storied standing. Even as he has no further requirement to curry favour with anyone connected to the Glasgow club, whose fanbase “are not really supporters, the club is an extension of them, it’s a family” he would always “cherish”. Likewise, when interrogators fished as to him having arrived at the Promised Land of the English top flight, leaving behind the football desert of its northern brethren. To his immense credit, he just would not take the bait. As with the Harry Kane situation, which he danced around like a tango champion.

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Of course, at several points he acknowledged the reality that the set-up he will attempt to make his new club competitive within has no equals across the global game. But his motivations for jumping at the task of transforming a seemingly permanently under-achieving Spurs – there was me excited about the role, he joked, when it was put to him the club has only one silverware success this century, and that was a League Cup 15 years ago – he framed as his being a footballing Nanny McPhee. His “love” of taking on rebuilds considered beyond his questioned capabilities chiming in with her fabled mantra that amounted to “when you need me but do not want me, then I must stay … when you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go.” A mindset that, in part, explains why he would feel his work at Celtic – which he said he “loved every minute” of – was effectively done. Especially when he is one of the game’s thrill seekers but at any age when he possesses a finite number of coaching years to pack in as many distinct adventures as possible. As he set out in dismissing the “goal” of managing in the Premier League.

Postecoglou tasted huge success during his two-year stint as Celtic manager.Postecoglou tasted huge success during his two-year stint as Celtic manager.
Postecoglou tasted huge success during his two-year stint as Celtic manager.

“I can’t say it was a goal,” he said. “I’ve come, literally, from the other side of the world. I just wanted to experience as much as I can throughout my career and see where that takes me. Every job I have I’ve enjoyed, I’ve embraced. Whether that is in different countries, different leagues, national team or club football, but the Premier League is the strongest competition. Some of the best managers in the world are in this competition, some of the strongest teams in the world are in this competition and why wouldn’t you want to embrace that. It’s another opportunity for me to do what I do, in a different competition with a different sort of fundamentals around it and experience something else in my career that I hadn’t. It wasn’t an ambition of mine but certainly everything I’ve done I’ve tried to do to the best of my ability so that gives me more experiences so I can say have given me a career where I have realised everything I’ve wanted to do.”

An adjunct to this the slapdown he dished out when asked how much a step-up would be his new post from operating in the ‘SPL’ hasn’t existed for a decade. "I don't know about step-ups,” he said. “I had the same question when I got to the SPFL but I coached at a World Cup so I've coached in different leagues. I think every challenge is the same, to be honest. It's relative to the competition you are in. I have never gone into any job thinking, ‘this is going to be easy' in comparison to anything else I've done. It's going to be a massive challenge, absolutely, but Celtic was a massive challenge. I know people sort of say in Scotland if you're Celtic you are either going to finish first or second but second is last, second I'm not in a job. You have to finish first. Irrespective of what outside thoughts are there is still a demand there. And it's not just about winning, it's the manner in which you win as well. There is an expectation around the way you play your football, particularly me. I am pretty explicit in saying I want my teams to play in a certain way so that has to be reflective in how we do things. I've never seen anything I've done as a step up, I just see it as a different challenge, a different set of circumstances.”



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