Celtic boss Postecoglou gets it spot on about Europa League; 'test' Hoops needed to improve

By Euan Davidson

February 15, 2022

When Ange Postecoglou arrived at Celtic, after a dismal season including a difficult Europa League campaign, many believed Europe was a “free hit” for the Greek-Aussie boss.

He did not see it the same way.

From the start, Celtic were enterprising, and so close to making a real dent. However, it proved to be an important learning experience instead. And, with the advent of the Europa Conference League, the Hoops still have European ties to look forward to this week.

Photo by Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Losses against Bayer Leverkusen and Real Betis could’ve been bruising. Instead, they were inspiring for the Celtic boss.

Postecoglou said [Stan Sport]: “I got really excited when we got the group, because I thought “here’s a real good test for us”. We got tested, mate. First game we had at home against Leverkusen, we lost 4-0. We, bizarrely enough, played really well, created some great chances but got absolutely punished for the smallest of mistakes.

“And you kind of understand the levels in this game that exist. We had to cop a little bit of a hiding on the day, but we did it with the knowledge that that was going to improve us. Because we tested ourselves, ultimately. We could’ve gone out there and lost 1 or 2-0, and not really found out anything.

“The players got a bit of courage from that, because I didn’t change anything after that. We grew as the tournament went into it… it’s been a great learning curve for us as a group, to know that “ok, this is the kind of football we want to play, we’re not going to compromise, just because we’re in Europe”. To know what the best do, and how we need to improve to cope with it.”

Everything is falling into place for Celtic as Ange’s class shines through again

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Everything is falling into place for Celtic as Ange’s class shines through again
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Ange Postecoglou has it bang-on about Celtic in Europe

This is encouraging.

Being honest, would you want a Celtic manager in place who was fine to just write off European football this season? To me at least, the lessons learnt on the continent and our improvement domestically have gone hand-in-hand.

Take, for example, our form after that Bayer Leverkusen disappointment. We won vital away games against Aberdeen and Motherwell, then saw off Ferencvaros, St Johnstone and Hibernian. Those were absolutely crucial results, in terms of both performance and outcome.

Both Ferencvaros wins provided a springboard, as did beating Betis second time round, and coming so close against Leverkusen in the BayArena. Ange Postecoglou’s players played his style of football, and if it wasn’t yielding results every time, it was at least inspiring the players to raise their levels.

Photo by Ralf Treese/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

That has a very obvious knock-on effect. Since our form in Europe improved, so did our domestic results. We’ve got one trophy in the bag, and sit top of the Scottish Premiership, having overturned what was once a 6-point deficit. That’s in large part down to meeting the demands of the Europa League, and Ange Postecoglou is smart enough to recognise these things aren’t mutually exclusive.

We needed that shellacking from Bayer Leverkusen for one key reason; it showed where the levels are. It hurt at the time, especially given how flattering the scoreline looked to the Bundesliga club.

Our improvement after it, though, speaks volumes. And as we look to Europe again this week, let’s not see it as a distraction, but an integral part of the process.

Read more: Report: Former Celtic captains in frame for Aberdeen role