Why Celtic were 'not ready to tackle' Champions League qualifiers and what Ange Postecoglou did next

Ange Postecoglou admits the start to his Celtic career was far from plain sailing – but the long-term benefits should outweigh the short-term angst.

Eliminated from the Champions League qualifiers by FC Midtjylland followed by an opening cinch Premiership defeat at Hearts raised questions – but for Postecoglou, it was always going to be this way.

The manager was in the middle of a summer transformation, a sizeable squad turnaround while implementing his own football philosophy at the club he had just joined from a successful spell in Japan.

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Defeat was difficult, but the single-minded manager knew there would be pain before gain – as it had been with his previous jobs. Now, six months later with one trophy already banked and Celtic top of the league after a resounding Old Firm victory, the smarting memories are slowly fading.

Celtic's Dane Murray (centre) looks dejected after Awer Mabil makes it 1-1 at the MCH Arena. (Photo by Claus Fisker / SNS Group)

“For me, the test comes when things aren’t going smoothly. It’s probably why in all the jobs I’ve had, the initial period is always rocky. It’s because I don’t compromise at the start,” Postecoglou explained. “Obviously players, and even staff, struggle with it initially, just to get the concepts right, but I just don’t compromise on that.

“Ultimately, it’s the football I want my teams to play, which is a big driver for me, and it’s been very, very successful. I just think it’s the way to win, for me, as a manager.

“If you want me to go out on the weekends and set up a team to sit back for a point, I can’t do it. I don’t know how, it’s just not in my skillset.

“I’ve said to people a few times, when I walked into the football library I went to one section and I stayed there.”

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou (centre) looks dejected at full time as FC Midtjylland manager Bo Henriksen celebrates. (Photo by Claus Fisker / SNS Group)

That said, the early form makes painful reading and Danish disappointment was hard to take with his brand of football still bedding in.

“I knew those qualifiers come really early and they’re really important to the club. Just to play in the Champions League is massive for a club like Celtic.

“I also knew that we were nowhere near ready to tackle that task. That was the most challenging bit for me.

“We played ok against Midtjylland here, then we lost in extra-time over there which knocked us out of the first qualifying round.

“In my gut though I knew instinctively it was just a bridge too far for where the team was at the time.

“I was still disappointed as it was a chance for me to make an impact at the club.”

Now, with Celtic top of the cinch Premiership and Norwegian champions Bodo/Glimt visiting in the Conference League on Thursday the opportunity to create that impact he craved remains – if slightly delayed – after establishing his philosophy and sculpting the squad more to his liking with Reo Hatate, Jota, Kyogo Furuhashi and Matt O’Riley among new recruits impressing.

"I knew getting the right players was going to be the first critical part of what I am trying to create and how I will be judged in history,” he added.

"If I signed players that didn't fit, it was going to be hard. You can't have square pegs in round holes.

"It's not just about getting talented footballers, it's about getting people who fit into my football.”

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