'Best coaches are thieves': Ange Postecoglou's Celtic philosophy catching the eye of certain opponents

A massive admirer of their style and manager, Hibs boss Lee Johnson knows his team are in for stern examination of their credentials on Saturday when they visit Celtic Park.

Hibs' manager Lee Johnson is preparing his team to face Celtic this weekend.
Hibs' manager Lee Johnson is preparing his team to face Celtic this weekend.

Johnson’s Hibs outfit are currently third in the cinch Premiership and play their own attractive, attacking brand of football with a strong press and designs on winning the ball back high up the pitch. And the 41-year-old makes no secret of keeping a close eye on his Celtic counterpart Ange Postecoglou and the way he asks his team to go about their business.

“I like them, really good,” Johnson responded when asked what he makes of Celtic and Postecoglou. "Interesting style, I like the manager. He is a coach I’ve watched over a period of time and enjoyed and learned from.

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“This will be interesting to go into this game with their distinct style of play and our distinct style of play. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I like the vibe, I like their penetrative runs, I like their tempo. I like their quality and they’re sitting top of the league so it’s up to us to really go there, give a fantastic show of ourselves and maintain a real belief in how we do it.

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou has a huge admirer in his Hibs counterpart Johnson.

“The build-up play, the two full backs come in narrow and they feed the winger very early, their movements in that third phase of the build, all very technical. When you’ve been in football as long as I have, it’s very rare when you see new things. So when you do, it becomes interesting and you study off the back of it.

"The best coaches are the best thieves. Sometimes you need to thieve somebody else’s idea and wrap it into your philosophy.”

Johnson’s task on Saturday, though, will be to find a way to crack Celtic on their own patch. On the domestic front, they have never lost at home under Postecoglou, with Livingston and Dundee United the only teams to take a point. Johnson can at least draw on positive memories of going to Glasgow with Kilmarnock in 2012 – although his memory bank may let him down.

“It’s unbelievable because I can hardly remember winning there with Kilmarnock [2-0],” laughed Johnson. “Pedro, our kitman, came in this week and said: 'Remember that gaffer?' Whatever it was, three days after Celtic beat Barcelona, Killie beat them at Parkhead, I can hardly remember it.

Johnson celebrates after Kilmarnock took the lead against Celtic at Hampden in 2012.

“The only thing I remember is having a row with the manager – Kenny Shiels – before the game. I was talking to a player and he was like, ‘Lee, shut up you are too tactical, stop talking tactics to players’."

Johnson has better recollections of winning the League Cup earlier that year with Killie against Celtic at Hampden.

“The final I remember for a number of reasons,” added Johnson. “I came on as a sub, set up the winner with the only left foot pass I’ve made in my career – it is a wand clearly or a good bobble.

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“Obviously the death of my very good friend Liam Kelly’s father on that day, that was a complete mind mess, whether you celebrate, or don’t. I remember Neil Lennon sending his team in and not watching us lift the trophy, which I found disrespectful at the time.”