Another media masterclass from Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou

By John McGinley

August 2, 2022

For me, it was not too much of a surprise that Stephen Welsh popped up as an impressive Celtic hero on Sunday at home to Aberdeen, because Ange Postecoglou signalled a performance like that was on its way less than 24 hours before.

Everything Postecoglou says about his players and Celtic publicly is by design, for a reason and with a purpose. We’ve come to know that by now.

So when he spoke about Welsh in the Sunday papers in the kind of terms you’d expect of a trusted Celtic first-team player, it was fantastic to see that bear fruit within minutes of the 4:30pm kick-off.

Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images

Speaking ahead of the Aberdeen match, Postecoglou told The Scotsman: “Welshy has shown a lot of growth. I expect that from all the players. He has come back for pre-season and worked really hard through it. Because of our defensive situation we have not had too many options at centre-back so he and Cam have played in the majority of games and his performances are improving all the time.

“We are challenging him all the time to take his game to another level. That’s the nature of the beast, you have to keep improving whether you are established or not.

“Welshy has been with the club for a very long time. Last year was his first significant year as a first-team member and he has come back determined to make more of an impact. He wants to take his game to another level and he has embraced that challenge. He has definitely gone up a level from last year and hopefully he knows that we will try to get more out of him.”

Obviously, I’m not saying these words directly ensured that Welsh popped up with a goal and solid defensive display against Aberdeen. But they certainly didn’t hurt, and it’s clear that he was trying to position the young defender as a figure who can step up and be counted on.

If you contrast the comments to the way he spoke about Welsh last summer, which was almost with sympathy at being pushed into a difficult position, you can see the progress that the young Celtic defender has made.

Postecoglou likes to pick his moments when discussing players, exposing them to situations and giving them big opportunities. This isn’t the first time he’s talked up one of his players, only for them to impress shortly after.

Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images

Injury dictated that Welsh was always going to start the match on Sunday, but the manager was deliberately telling the media he was ready for it all and challenging his player to prove it. He was setting the expectations after a lot of chatter about the defender’s future.

Welsh is far from a complete player and is still improving and learning. Carl Starfelt is highly likely to come back into the team when he gets more training time, but for now he is showing he can play the squad role that has been marked out for him by the manager both privately and now in the full glare of supporters.

In other news, Malky Mackay cites ‘smallest budget’ as he plays down ambitions ahead of Celtic test.