New Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou: 'It was disheartening for me ... when the approach came, it was fantastic'

Within the club fanbase and the game’s commentariat, there is no end of folk harbouring the belief that union of Ange Postecoglou and Celtic can hardly be considered an obvious marriage.

Ange Postecoglou was presented to the media for the first time on Friday.
Ange Postecoglou was presented to the media for the first time on Friday.

And, as he met the media for the first time since his appointment to the Parkhead outfit’s managerial post a fortnight earlier, the 55-year-old – who has spent a quarter of a century proving a coach of rare excellence 6,000 miles from Glasgow’s east end – was candid enough to admit he would place himself among this constituency.

Postecoglou recognises how sniffy a Euro-centric football populace are about his achievements in Australia and Japan. The former Socceroos coach, who led his nation to the 2014 and 2018 World Cups and claimed titles with Yokahama F Marinos, Brisbane Roar and South Melbourne, is well aware these achievements cut no ice as he was presented as a non-entity second choice following Celtic’s failed pursuit of Eddie Howe. He knows all that. But none of that lifts even a flake of skin from his nose.

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A lot of Google searches

Postecoglou oversees training at Celtic's Lennoxtown base.

“I’ve had an ambition to manage on the other side of the world, absolutely,” Postecoglou admitted. “Specifically Celtic? No because, I’ll be honest, I didn’t think a club like Celtic would look at me because it’s life that people look at what’s immediately in front of you and there haven’t been many reasons for people to look on the other side of the world.

“I’ve never really worried about that sort of stuff. It’s never been a driver in me to try and prove that I am worthy in some way just because I have grown up on the other side of the world. I understand it. I’m sure that Google got a helluva battering when my name came up with people trying to figure out who I am. But that’s OK. I totally understand it, but I think people will judge me from what I do from now on.

“I have had discussions with clubs over here who have shown some interest. There was a lack of real knowledge about who I was and what I did. It was disheartening for me. You have to realise, OK, it’s going to take an enormous leap for somebody to make that decision and look beyond what’s convenient or normal. So when the approach came, it was fantastic for me. I got the opportunity to manage and coach on this side of the world, but to get to do it at a club like this is fantastic.”

Postecoglou is clearly a sharp cookie as he demonstrated in dousing talk of the Celtic post presenting “cultural challenges”. Understandably so when he has spent three-and-a-half years in Japan without knowing the language. “Every job has differences, but it’s not an enormous leap. It’s still football. That’s what I’ve found,” he said. “I had to figure out how I could get my message across some other way [than a shared language]. And we still did that. The team still played the football we wanted, the players responded and we were successful. I don’t think there is a great deal of difference. There are just subtleties in the way people think and the way people work. But that’s OK. That’s what I like.”

Postecoglou took in England v Scotland at Wembley alongside new chief executive Dominic McKay.

He’s not daft either about the scale of the challenge facing him. He effectively suggested it was Celtic’s almighty blow-out in their car-crash pursuit of a record tenth straight Premiership title that has placed him in the driver’s seat. He knows he has to comprehensively customise and rev-up the squad, knows he has to overhaul a Rangers that obliterated Celtic in a championship earned courtesy of a monstrous 25-point winning margin. And, however unfairly, he will be judged from first first competitive game – which isn’t even four weeks’ away and will see Celtic face FC Midtjylland of Denmark in the Champions League second qualifying round. He offers no reassurance that everything will be alright on that night, or that all will click to knock Rangers off their perch in the coming year.

Expectations and game against Midtylland

“I don’t think any manager’s got time,” he said. “We all know there is expectation. You can sit here and talk about building something for the long term, but I know what the expectations are and the demands of everyone involved with the football club. But at the same time, I think they want something special and that’s what’s driving me right now – to create a team that plays football that everyone talks about. If I can do that, if I can accomplish that, I believe success will follow. People will get behind it. People will understand what we’re doing. That’s my role, to get people to see as quickly as possible what we’re trying to do.

“I can’t control that [I’ll be judged on July 20 against the Danes]. My priority is the Celtic supporters and how they feel about the team, and I think they’ll judge what they see, not just necessarily the result. If I worried about things like that, it would mean that all I have to do is win the first game and I’ve got the tick and I’m flying. I know you’ll say, ‘well then they’ll judge you on the next game’. That sort of stuff doesn’t bother me. It’s not what’s drives me. I want this team playing a certain type of football that everyone talks about, and everyone will talk about this football club.

“Realistic [early on] is to see the team showing elements of the style of football. It’s not going to be perfect, it can’t be. It’s three or four weeks away, we’ve got to make changes to the team, so there’s no way. To be honest, whatever we deliver in that opening game, even if everything is great, I’ll still know there is more to come.

“Within that, it’s not going to be smooth, there’s going to be some bumps for sure and some real challenges. But I think Celtic supporters, if they see their players having a real strong desire to play this game in a way that they believe can give us a success, I think they will support that. [As for having to overcome Rangers in a season], it’s me, but my brain is just not wired that way. I don’t think we’re in a race with one other team. I can sit here and talk about the beautiful football, but the best reference point for me is what I produce in terms of the football with the teams I’ve had. If other clubs out there do something better than me and end up ahead of us then I’ll hold my hands up, but what I know is that wherever I’ve got my teams to play the football I know I want them to play, then success follows.”

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