Why wouldn't you see Hearts and Hibs as title contenders, asks Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou insists a look at the cinch Premiership table tells you that Hearts and Hibs are title contenders.

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou (right) and his Hearts counterpart Robbie Neilson during the Tynecastle men's opening weekend victory that has helped create a title race the Australian believes both Hearts and Hibs are firmly in. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Neither of the Edinburgh clubs has even finished among the top two in Scotland’s upper tier for 15 years, with championship success carved up between Celtic and Rangers every season since 1984-85. Yet the Celtic manager believes that the present, not precedent, should be the guide to footballing possibilities – citing the 5,000-1 English Premier League success of Leicester City five years ago. It is why he bases his current opinion on the potential outcome of the league on the ability of Hearts and Hibs’ to keep pace with Celtic and Rangers across the first quarter of the campaign.

Postecoglou will takes his Celtic team to Leith for the first time on Wednesday, the Easter Road ground not witnessing a Celtic league win since 2014. With Hearts having beaten Celtic at Tynecastle in the opening weekend of the season, and then drawing away to Rangers last week, the threat from the east to the Glasgow clubs’ title hegemony isn’t underestimated by the 56-year-old.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

“I can only go with what is going on at the moment so you have to say, yes [Hearts and Hibs are in the title race]. Why not?” said the Celtic manager. “There is a historical context for all these things and there is a script that is written that people assume will be followed every year. But it wasn’t that long ago that Leicester won the Premier League. I have always thought that if you take football for granted or you think you know how the script is going to run then invariably it gives you an almighty slap in the face. You look at it at the moment and there are four or five teams who are close together and they will all think they are capable of having some success this year. I see no reason why you would discount one or any other who is up there until evidence shows you otherwise.”

The credentials of both Celtic and Hibs, whose form has tailed off a little, will be scrutinised when they meet on Wednesday, but Postecoglou doesn’t believe that the club’s poor record at Easter Road makes it an especially tough fixture for his team for a respectful reason. “They have all been daunting,” he said. “I know we are talking on the back of two away victories but a couple of weeks ago people were telling me that we hadn’t won away since Valentine’s Day. I hadn’t heard Valentine’s Day so diminished for a long time. I understood that every away game was a challenge for us until you dispel that. I don’t think this week is going to be any more difficult or any easier than other challenge. Every away game is a challenge. I think that is part of the uniqueness of this league that, particularly at home, every team is competitive and you know you are in for a tough battle and I have no doubts we will have a tough night against Hibs.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.