Ange Postecoglou on Celtic 'taking punches' and giving senior debuts to players who 'earn it'

Celtic’s ability to remain standing in the face of all manner of hits across Ange Postecoglou’s opening six months is the product of a big-club mentality the Australian says he will never stop demanding.

Ange Postecoglou with Joey Dawson, who became the 34th player used by the Celtic manager this season after making his debut against St Johnstone on Boxing Day. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Ange Postecoglou with Joey Dawson, who became the 34th player used by the Celtic manager this season after making his debut against St Johnstone on Boxing Day. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The 3-1 victory away to St Johnstone on Boxing Day with which Celtic completed their pre-winter shutdown commitments extended their unbeaten run to 14 league games - the club’s longest such sequence for more than two-and-a-half years.

A commendable spell of form not just for the fact that Postecoglou had to revamp Celtic with a host of summer signings but because it was extended at McDiarmid Park amid extensive injury and covid issues. These resulted in the Celtic boss giving a debut to 18-year-old striker Joey Dawson and so taking the number of players he has deployed this season to the mighty figure of 34 - no fewer than 27 of these utilised in the closing three weeks of December.

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Postecoglou knows that his club operate with an infrastructure and resource base that leaves them better able to cope with any personnel concerns than any other team in Scotland. And it is why he has maintained he will ensure his bow doesn’t see the light of day amid “the violin-playing around the place” he feels it would have been “easy” for him to join in on.

“We are a big club,” the Celtic manager said. “We will take whatever challenges are before us and not make excuses. We could have made excuses from the first game when we were throwing in guys who hadn’t even met their team-mates yet but we took our licks, we took our punches, we got back up off the canvas and that’s what we’ll keep doing. That’s the kind of club we want to be. Credit to the players and to the staff. In Perth, we had plenty of excuses, but if we didn’t get the job done, I wouldn’t be able to use many of them. I would be saying we were disappointed, as we were [in drawing away to St Mirren in the game before].”

Postecoglou has leaned into the club’s academy set-up in his opening half season in Scotland - as much by necessity as anything else with fitness problems depriving him of his entire forward line and most of his wide players over the past months. The majority of these players are expected to be returned to full health for the campaign’s resumption in little over a fortnight. Meanwhile, a clutch of January signings are expected to be added to Postecoglou’s player pool. These developments are likely to restrict opportunities for the home-grown talents but the Celtic manager says he “certainly” does like blooding youngsters and believes it is important he doesn’t close off that pathway.

“I think it’s an important part of any club, particularly this club,” said the 56-year-old, who has already given senior debuts to Owen Moffat, Dane Murray and Dawson across his tenure. “Having players who were brought up with this club is important. I mean, you just have to look at our captain. It’s not just significant for Callum [McGregor], it’s for significant for our supporters to know that one of their own has gone from the terraces to the pitch.

“It’s definitely something I want to encourage but at the same time we’re not just going to give away appearances. They’ve got to earn it. The first half of the year, some of them have been given it probably without earning it. That’s the reality of our situation with injuries but that doesn’t dismiss the fact that they’ve had the opportunity. It’s certainly something I’d like to do. It’s important, it’s a priority, that we keep developing our own players.”

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