Tiki-taka, gung-ho master: The football Celtic can expect from Ange Postecoglou as gutted Yokohama contemplate manager's exit

Banners hanging around Yokohama’s Nissan Stadium on Sunday conveyed the horror at Ange Postecoglou’s potential departure for Celtic.
The image of Ange Postecoglou unveiled by Yokohama F. Marinos fans at the weekend.The image of Ange Postecoglou unveiled by Yokohama F. Marinos fans at the weekend.
The image of Ange Postecoglou unveiled by Yokohama F. Marinos fans at the weekend.

Fans of Yokohama F. Marinos are dismayed that the man who revolutionised their club’s entire philosophy might leave. Their messages of love for ‘The Boss’ illustrated the 2-1 win against Shimizu S-Pulse.

There is talk of a tiki-taka expert who would bring lightning pace and devastating aggression levels if appointed in Glasgow. Time would not be on his side. Celtic fans crave success and remain angry at the failed move for former Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe. Concern has also arisen over whether the prospective new man holds the relevant coaching certificates.

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Postecoglou, 55, is unlikely to be fazed. Those who watched his Marinos team evolve since 2018 know he has what it takes to succeed at Celtic. One Yokohama season-ticket holder, Parkhead fan Sean Galbraith, fully understands the attraction.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team as all-out attack as this Yokohama F. Marinos side,” he said. “They’re entertaining almost to a fault. In Postecoglou's first season, results like 4-4, 3-2, and 4-2 were common. You would see brilliant, tiki-taka Barcelona, fast, counter-attacking play with great winning goals. Then the keeper would get chipped from the halfway line.

“He stuck with it and got the players to play the way he wanted for the second year. He got guys who could hold the ball under pressure and they went on an incredible run. It was win after win, playing the kind of football Celtic fans want. It brought the club's first league title in 15 years.

“You can play that football but if you don’t win you will quickly be on your way. I think he will have to hit the ground running in Glasgow. I’ve never seen him look under pressure, he doesn’t have the defeated man look. He believes it will come good if given time but I wouldn’t imagine him folding under the pressure. He is stronger than that.

“I don’t know if I’d say he’s a legend here but Marinos had a very defensive style before he came. He brought entertainment. Other J.League fans would come to see this football. It was talked about all over because it was different, like nothing seen before here.

“If you look at the heat maps from that first season under Postecoglou, the Marinos keeper is basically on the halfway line. It’s crazy, although it’s toned down a bit now.

“Nobody wants him to leave. He got huge applause as soon as we walked out at the weekend. Fans had a sign saying: ‘We love The Boss.’ They are worried about how to replace him because nobody else is like Postecoglou.”

Englishman Stuart Woodward has lived in Japan since 1988 and also follows Marinos around the country. “Postecoglou’s style of football is very intense, players are extremely fit and the fans absolutely love the way Postecoglou plays. They are gutted he might be leaving,” he said.

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“Everybody is worried that you probably only have one chance in Glasgow. If you need time to get the team playing your way, that’s going to be tough. Postecoglou is a very determined character who is very good at motivating.

“He got a lot of criticism from Australian press because he left their national team before the 2018 World Cup, but he can handle that scrutiny. His father died a couple of years ago and he idolised him. He wants to play the excellent football that would make his father proud. He changed the way people played football here.”

Glaswegian James Michael has followed Yokohama since the former Marinos talisman Shunsuke Nakamura joined Celtic in 2005. “By chance, I was over there on a school trip the day Nakamura signed and he was all over every newspaper. I went back across to watch him when I got my first full-time job and was blown away,” he said.

“I can understand why Celtic fans are unsure of Ange. Everything needs to change and the club are looking for a leader. I sent a message to a mate in February saying Celtic would be silly not to speak to Ange.

“His philosophy and style of football is extremely gung-ho. It’s just all-systems-go, everything forward, chasing opposing down opposing goalkeepers to the byline and everything. The phrase ‘high press’ doesn’t really do it justice.

“I’m a season-ticket holder at Celtic Park but I’ve watched Marinos for years. I went over in December 2019 for the last two games as they won the league. When I saw them in the flesh, it was the fastest football team I’ve ever seen.

“It’s just blistering pace. In Ange’s first season, the shoots of a football team were emerging. That took off in the second season with pacy wingers both sides and a good centre-forward. There is the initial high press but if the opponents beat that then they will sit back and counter-attack with speed.

“They will recycle possession until space opens up, although off the ball they will hound teams and hunt them down.

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“In the second season, Marinos were playing in the Asian Champions League and they lost a couple of key players. A team based on hard running, playing through a Japanese summer of 40 to 50 games in five or six months, it was no surprise that they went from winning the title to finishing ninth.

“It could work at Celtic but he really is starting on the back foot with this response from some supporters. A part of me is excited about this move but I’m concerned about the timing.

“It’s a project with him. He comes in and takes over entirely. The magnifying glass is on Celtic just now so it’s a tough ask. Postecoglou admits himself Japan isn’t well known for coaching and football expertise.

“He isn’t somebody who wavers. To play that style of football, you have to be pretty self-assured.”

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