Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou opens up on thick skin, not being from outer space and watching 'bizarre' matches

No-one would ever present the imposing, strong-willed Ange Postecoglou as a shrinking violet.
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou.Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou.
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou.

Nearly three decades in the coaching game has helped make the 55-year-old more a hardy perennial. Precisely why the Celtic manager appears amused at the notion the white-hot heat brought to bear on him by the instant failure in the club’s quest for the Champions League group stages could cause him to wilt.

The 2-1 extra-time loss in the third round qualifier away to Midtjylland on Wednesday didn’t exactly represent the flowering of a new era, it must be said. Meanwhile, inability to make a winning start to the cinch Premiership campaign at Hearts would place him a thicket.

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Yet, ask the Australian whether he might require to adjust to the fact there is no nuance in the footballing garden in which he has planted himself, where nothing exists between triumph and disaster and emotional reactions to the latter are child-like, and he almost has a chuckle to himself.

“That’s OK, I’m glad people are taking care of my sensibilities and thinking I’m this fragile little petal that’s going to fall apart,” the 55-year-old said. “I’ve grown up in the big, bad world of football and I understand it. I think people have every right to show that emotion. I’m passionate about the game and I love people being passionate about it because I know that passion goes both ways.

“People talk about the special atmosphere at Celtic Park, and I’ve already felt it. If you want that, you can only get it if people care. You can’t have people care then expect them to react well if things don’t go well. We had a disappointing night. I expect there to be blowback and criticism from that, and people disappointed. You know what, as soon as we turn it around I think we will be equally the same amount of support and love that the club needs, and this group of players deserves. I’ve got no issue with that. Other people seem to be more affected by how that’s going to affect me.

“I had a very hard father who didn’t give me kisses and cuddles and told me he loved me. I had to earn these things along the way. I’m a totally different father, I give my kids kisses and cuddles every day.”

So comprehensive an overhaul of Celtic’s football operation does Postecoglou require to implement, few give him an earthly of earning affection, or appreciation, for endeavours over his first season. Or earning a league title, more pointedly. A month down the line and he could still be imbedding seven new players and a singular playing philosophy. Against a Rangers team in the groove, and fresh from skooshing the previous championship by a 25-point margin, nothing points to Postecoglou being able to instantly reverse his club’s league fortunes. Including his previous achievements. At Yokahama F Marinos, Brisbane Roar and South Melbourne, extensive rebuilds meant it was in his second full season in each posting that championship success was snared. Yet, he won’t countenance a similar timescale in Glasgow, even if he can’t rule out a bumpy ride in the coming months.

“Maybe, but at the same time, I don’t try to navigate a path where success comes in the second year,” he said. “Wherever I’ve been I’ve tried to be successful in the first year, though sometimes circumstances haven’t helped me in that. I definitely think we’ll get better as the season goes on and we’ll be stronger, absolutely I believe that, but that doesn’t mean that rules us out of being successful in the league. I really believe that with the group of players we have, and the additions we’re going to bring in, we’ll hopefully get off to a good start in the league, and I’m very, very confident that we’ll be challenging for honours at the end of the year.”

The fixture list feels as if it has been unkind to the one-month-in-charge Celtic manager with an opener in the exacting domain of Tynecastle and a trip across the city to face Rangers at the end of August. He doesn’t much care for the suggestion that he is stepping into the great unknown in facing the newly-promoted Hearts. A perception that overlooks his times as the Australian national coach, he would petition.

“I’m still on the same planet. I haven't come from outer space,” he said to broadcasters. “You’d be surprised how much I know about Hearts. We are well prepared so the players will have all the information we need. [When I was Socceroos coach] I came up to Scotland a couple of times. Through Hearts, we had quite a few players come through and go and play for them. There is a strong Aussie connection with the club. Paddy Kisnorbo was there for a while, Oliver Bonazic was there a couple of years ago, so I’ve followed Hearts. Being on the other side of the globe doesn’t mean I wasn’t aware of what was going on here. When I was national team manager my Monday mornings were literally a backlog of games that I needed to watch that Aussies were involved in. I could be watching games from the third division in England, to the Premier in Scotland, to the Czech second division. Mate, I’ve watched some bizarre games of football.” Postecoglou will hope to avoid being involved in a few that could be so pruned as he seeks to take root in Scottish soil.

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