Celtic Manager Year in Review
It’s hard to know where to start with Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou.
Fine, let’s take it to February 2021. With Neil Lennon’s resignation coming in the weeks after robust defence from the Celtic board, protests and grim results, it seemed an opportunity. The 10 was gone, but with it went a whole attitude at the club.
Even though Brendan Rodgers had achieved enormous success, followed on by Neil Lennon in his first season after coming back, there was a definite stasis. The club had, even with Rodgers in, done just about enough to secure titles. The gulf in quality between ourselves and the rest of the league had become significant, and apart from an odd success in Europe, there was a definite absentee landlord feel.
In many ways, rehiring Neil Lennon so hastily was the moment to illustrate. It didn’t indicate a long-term vision, a kind of thinking that went beyond the next few months. Players were loaned in, to cover key positions, with little thought to what would happen when they leave.
Academy players weren’t really coming through. With Kieran Tierney away, James Forrest and Callum McGregor were the only real solid first-team options from the youth set-up. When Lennon left, it seemed like it’d be the start of a period of immense soul-searching.
Caretaker boss John Kennedy saw the season out, and tried a few new things, primarily giving the likes of Adam Montgomery and Karamoko Dembele some minutes. Performances, though, didn’t really improve.
Eddie Howe was, after weeks of random names being thrown around, the clear favourite. That remained the case for months. It looked like it was happening, before a random change of heart on a Friday lunch-time. It was at that point that most of us heard about Ange Postecoglou possibly taking the Celtic job.
Ange Postecoglou has given Celtic Park its buzz back
To European audiences, this was not a familiar name. But some frantic Googling later divided fans into the cautiously optimistic faction, and those who found it to be a left-field gamble.
Which is fair enough. Postecoglou had only one brief spell in Europe, managing in his homeland of Greece for a short, eventful stay to essentially help out a friend. It was nothing to write home about.
What was worth writing about, though, was his accolades. An Asian Cup, a J League, A League titles, some unbelievable unbeaten runs, how beloved he was in Australia and Japan; all impressive. The more we learned about him, the more we liked.
So when he did get the job, the mood went from cynicism and disappointment over Eddie Howe, to a feeling of excitement about taking a flyer on a boss we’d learn more about.
That excitement was rewarded, but not immediately. Celtic went out of the Champions League qualifiers with half a team missing [BBC], owing to the total dysfunction at the club before Ange arrived. He brought in 12 players, almost every one excellent. But many of them didn’t arrive until later on in the window, and it cost the Hoops early on.
Not only that, Ange arrived by himself, with no additional staff.
But since finding something nearing a settled XI, the results have come. There were some early-season thumpings, against St Mirren and Dundee. Jablonec and AZ Alkmaar were dealt with handily. Even in some disappointing moments, against Real Betis for example, you could see what was coming.
Ange finds himself beloved just half-way through his first season
Fans have bought in 100% now. Yes, there are still some concerns about how he sets up his teams in Europe, but Celtic still finished the Europa League group with 9 points, and will face Bodø/Glimt in the new Europa Conference League next year.
We’re within touching distance of top spot, have the best defence in the league, and have some new heroes in the Green and White. Kyogo Furuhashi, Joe Hart, Jota, Liel Abada and more; all fantastic signings.
The feelings are good. There’s real hope for the future, with players getting used to the Ange Postecoglou style, and the increased number of Celtic Academy talents in the team. When Owen Moffat entered the scene against Ross County, he was the 7th Academy talent to make a mark in the league. In all competitions, the 9th. There’s growth there.
Ange gets to have his first proper Christmas in Europe a winner. The Premier Sports Cup triumph, and the celebrations afterwards, showed just far Ange has come in the eyes of supporters, and the good feeling around the club since he arrived.
It’s taken him a matter of months to win his first trophy. What’s more, you sense it’s far from the last.
So, a gamble? Yes. But a total culture shift with immediate rewards? Absolutely.
Just half a season on, try to find a Celtic fan who doesn’t believe in what Ange Postecgolou is doing at Celtic. You’ll struggle.