Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou has his say on football behind closed doors

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou believes football is robbed of its “essence” when it is played behind closed doors.

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou.
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou.

The Parkhead club have been quick to request that the SPFL bring forward the winter break and reschedule the fixtures set to be affected by new rules stating a maximum of only 500 people can attend sporting events from Boxing Day for three weeks.

Among the games impacted is the Old Firm derby on 2 January, when 60,000 fans were set to descend on Celtic Park for the clash between the first and second teams in the Premiership table.

It has since emerged that Celtic's game against St Mirren tonight is now in doubt. The Paisley club have requested for the Premiership fixture to be postponed after “further positive covid tests”.

Celtic’s victory over Hibs in Sunday’s Premier Sports final at Hampden Park could stand as their last outing for some time.

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Their next game after the scheduled winter break is at Alloa Athletic’s Indodrill stadium in the Scottish Cup. The ground only has a capacity of just over 3,000 in any case so will only be seen by a limited number of supporters. Celtic’s league campaign then resumes with matches against Hearts and Dundee United.

The club released a statement last night calling for a shutdown to take effect from 26 December. “The game owes its supporter so explore all opportunities to maximise the prospect of all supporters being able to attend matches and support the game they love,” it added.

Postecoglou has not experienced closed door games in Scotland. He was managing in Japan at Yokohama F. Marinos when the J League twice took the decision – in July 2020 and again in April this year – to ban fans from stadiums to cope with rising Covid infection rates.

Jock Stein, one of his legendary predecessors at Celtic Park, once described football as “nothing” without fans and Postecoglou is of a similar view. He is in favour of avoiding such a scenario if at all possible.

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“I didn’t enjoy the football in empty stadiums,” said Postecoglou. “To me, it was a different game with a different feel.

“For the players it was a different environment too and I didn’t enjoy it at all, to be honest. I know the games are still going on but for me, they lose a bit of essence when supporters aren’t there.

“It was a tough grind and we did it for almost a whole season. It was tough. This is just what we are dealing with right now.

“As a manager I could never have envisaged dealing with the stuff I have these past two years. But that’s life. You are forced to face and confront things you would never have expected to. We just have to overcome what is before us and keep moving on.”

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Postecoglou is frustrated that Celtic could be denied the chance to build on their cup final success but is alert to the bigger picture.

“With all of these things, we just have to follow the set guidelines,” he said.

“They are not designed for one particular purpose, they are just the rules and all of

us could have to deal with them at some point.

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“We just hope to get through this period without any of our own interruptions, over and above our injuries.

“We will follow the guidelines and if the game is to be played, we will play it. If not, we won’t.”