Celtic Sports Science guru Anton McElhone on working with Harry Kane and Hibs education

By Euan Davidson

November 9, 2021

This article features a guest contribution by Callum McFadden of World Football Index, and the Football CFB podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @CallumFWA.

When Anton McElhone joined up with Celtic, there was understandable excitement.

It came in the middle of an injury crisis at Celtic. Callum McGregor and Kyogo Furuhashi headlined the walking wounded at Paradise. With Ange Postecoglou barely in the door, the timing was far from ideal.

Liked by Mauricio Pochettino, who had him at Tottenham Hotspur, McElhone’s CV was considerable. An Academy Coach at Queen’s Park and Hibs, McElhone moved on to work at Spurs, with Brad Friedel at New England Revolution, and back in Scotland.

Spells assistant managing Greenock Morton and Bradford had McElhone conducting training sessions and giving tactical advice. Now, he’s in charge of Sports Science, and the dividends are already paying out.

With Ange Postecoglou requiring a fit, energetic team to carry out his instructions, the likes of Mikey Johnston and James Forrest have come back from injury. Giorgos Giakoumakis seems to have recovered from annoying injury niggles.

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And, of course, Kyogo and McGregor are back, looking as if they were never out.

But what about that illustrious, interesting past of McElhone’s? Here, he talks about working with Hibs’ Golden Generation, Harry Kane and leading entertaining sessions for players.

Anton McElhone; the maverick Celtic Head of Sports Science with fascinating CV

Below is a portion of the interview between McFadden and McElhone, after the current Celtic Head of Sports Science left Morton.

You started working in Scottish football several years ago at Queens Park and then Hibernian. What did you learn from those experiences?

I was really like to be given an opportunity at Queens Park by Tommy Wilson. He was my coach as an Under 19 player at the club and he gave me my first opportunity in coaching. He was a fantastic coach and football man to learn from given his success in youth development with Scotland.  

From there, I moved on to Hibernian when John Park and Tony Mowbray recruited me. It enabled me to work with a higher profile of player and I worked with Scott Brown, Steven Fletcher, Chris Killen as well as after talented players who the club sold on for big money. 

It was a great grounding for me in terms of getting used to working within an environment were the focus was on playing football the right way. 

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Anton McElhone: Spurs, Harry Kane and developing as a coach

You are arguably most well known for working at Tottenham Hotspur as a fitness and conditioning coach from 2007 to 2017. How integral was that role within your development across the aspects of fitness and sports science? 

I always aspire to be the best and work the best players so the opportunity to go to Tottenham Hotspur was a great experience for me. 

It took me to the next level in terms of developing my knowledge and experience of fitness and coaching. Every member of staff at Tottenham had expertise within their field and we had access the best of facilities too. Those aspects of a club are vital in order to develop players and coaches to the highest level. 

A player who I use as an example in my work is Harry Kane. I was fortunate to work with Harry from the age of fifteen. He was a good young player but he made the grade through hard graft. He experienced ups and downs. 

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Football is not a straight road for any player. Character and determination are crucial in terms of becoming an established player. Harry was told no several times and could easily have stalled as a player. However, he put in extra work after training, would ask to travel on various trips with the team to learn and always have his all. 

Putting on the best sessions is what you strive to do as a coach but everyone has to work together to ensure the every player can access the best footballing education within a club.

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