Ange Postecoglou: New Celtic boss winning over hearts and minds

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou arrives at the stadium prior to the Cinch Scottish Premiership match against Motherwell FC last month. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou arrives at the stadium prior to the Cinch Scottish Premiership match against Motherwell FC last month. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images) /
Postecoglou at Celtic
Liel Abada is congratulated by Ange Postecoglou after Celtic defeated St. Mirren FC at Celtic Park in August. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images) /

In late May, Ange Postecoglou was tucked away in distant Japan, half-way through a J-League campaign and looking to re-establish Yokohama F. Marino’s domestic dominance. In European terms, an unproven force from an inferior footballing world.

Eddie Howe, seen as a reputable figure in the contemporary game, was locked in contractual negotiations with Celtic, his announcement as head coach seemingly an imminent inevitability.

What a crazy world football really is.

In six short months, Howe is now at the helm of a footballing revolution at Newcastle United, spearheaded by a huge injection of Saudi financial capital. The Middle East has landed in England’s north-east, and its hungry for trophy-laden success.

Long, strange trip for Postecoglou

Ange Postecoglou now finds himself in Glasgow’s east-end, in the role that Howe controversially walked away from just prior to the 2021 European Championships. The irony that Howe now finds himself in a rebuild more colossal than the one he was set to inherit at Parkhead is not lost on many.

However, the most intriguing dynamic of the whole affair, is perhaps that the vast majority of Celtic supporters are now delighted at how the club’s managerial saga concluded – albeit still prickly about the board who facilitated the process.

Postecoglou’s announcement in June triggered a few raised Glaswegian eyebrows. Celtic faced the humiliation, despite euphemistic words cast by club officials, of being snubbed by a man they had courted for months, and, let’s not forget, had been out of work since August 2020. Although Howe ended his Bournemouth tenure in relegation, his credentials as a young, gifted coach, tactically astute and aspirational in cause, were certainly not in doubt.

In contrast, Postecoglou was a relative unknown. The Aussie, plucked from a “weaker” league and with a limited resume that peaked with a three-year stint as manager of his national side, he wasn’t exactly a candidate likely to enthuse those of a green-and-white persuasion. For some, it was a poor choice. For most, support would be lent until results went awry. For all, the jury was well and truly out.

Promise made

If in the docks today however, those casting judgement would surely return a favourable verdict. The big Australian has assembled a side capable of hurting anyone on their day, but, more than that, he has engaged with the fanbase in a way no one thought imaginable – they get him, and he gets them.

After the trauma of last season’s failed 10-in-a-row attempt; with empty stadiums and an even emptier trophy cabinet, the Celtic legions needed waking from their slumber. Tension with the board is still palpable, but Ange’s role as a charismatic force did much to soothe a rather fractured relationship.

His press conferences tapped into what Celtic fans expect of their leader; knowledgeable, eloquent, and a fierce protector of the club’s interests. His direct style and humorous deployment of the word “mate” (a thinly veiled put down to those who pose typically silly questions to football managers), suggests a man comfortable in his own skin.

He engaged with fans, and spoke candidly about his approach and style of football; a component sadly missing in those final darkened days of the Neil Lennon dynasty.

Actions speak louder than his words

However, words are a base, an indication, the true acid test always comes through results. A shaky start was far from ideal. Early Champions League elimination at the hands of Danes Midtjylland, a 6-2 home humbling from a rampant West Ham (a friendly, but still nevertheless a shocker), and an opening day defeat at Tynecastle was an underwhelming early run to say the least. Come October, Celtic occupied 6th place.

A difficult September followed, and some corners of the media started to call for the Aussie’s head. However, the informed few were quick to offer a slice of sanity, and highlighted the wider headwinds that Postecoglou faced (and continues to face).

In his Daily Record column last month, Chris Sutton emphasized the scale of the task;

"‘(T)here shouldn’t be pressure on Postecoglou to win the title this year given the mess he inherited’"

And another ex-Celtic frontman, John Hartson, a mainstay in front of the Celtic TV lens, repeatedly called for calm throughout early season exchanges, emphasizing the need for patience and perspective. He too is acutely aware of the challenges.

However, the media criticism from others soon diminished. After initial growing pains, Postecoglou’s playing style began to bear fruit. Those early-season communication qualities, where he demonstrated a knack to galvanize and inspire, were starting to permeate through the first team dressing room. An end product to his words via an end product on the park.

The defeat to Leverkusen was a watershed moment; the Germans inflicted a 4-0 rout on a lacklustre Celtic, and Postecoglou subsequently mobilised his troops for a response.

Such response was dually delivered at Pittodrie the following Sunday; with Celtic running out 2-1 winners. The blue touch paper was lit. Away wins at Motherwell, Hibs & Dundee, coupled with a home victory over a robust St. Johnstone side catapulted Celtic up the league. A seismic Europa League double against Hungarian champions Ferencvaros, further consolidated a change in fortunes.


In the same way that the suffix ‘”ism” is bound to any scholar who interprets theory a certain way, the term ‘ball’ is now instantaneously added to any football coach’s tactical philosophy.

However, such is the personality and particularness imprinted on his style of play, ‘Ange-ball’ is quite an apt way to position the all-encompassing nature of Postecoglou’s footballing doctrine.

In contrast to the protracted, unproductive possession-based play that characterized last season’s wretched campaign, Celtic now play with vigour & dynamism, and an unwavering desire to attack, attack, attack.

Advanced wingers offer consistent outlets on either flank, combining with a hard-working centre forward to engage defenders in an early press. Inverted fullbacks, much derided at the beginning of the Aussie’s tenure, step-in to augment the midfield and create overloads. A ‘sweeper-keeper’ maintains ball retention and momentum, whilst centre-backs quickly shift the ball in between the lines and into midfield.

More pragmatic tactical set-ups may be a little easier on the nerves, but the entertaining, basketball-esque format that ensues as a by-product of Postecoglou’s approach sits perfectly with a fanbase who crave football to be played the Celtic Way.

The Australian has already secured fan adulation; his recent Manager of the Month award crystallizing his impressive start and growing appreciation from other quarters.

Next. How will Xavi fare in Barça's hot seat?. dark

Ange Postecoglou has provided Celtic fans with a new sense of identity, pride, and, perhaps most importantly, hope of returning to the unbridled success enjoyed under Brendan Rodgers. Could Celtic re-gain the title this season under Postecoglou’s stewardship? There’s every chance, mate.