Like O'Neill and Rodgers: What Ange Postecoglou needs at Celtic

By Euan Davidson

June 24, 2021

Here’s hoping Ange Postecoglou has been watching the situation between Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths and former manager Neil Lennon.

The fact is, it’s a continually ugly scene. Leigh Griffiths is claiming he was fit last season, and his former manager is at fault for not playing him more. Neil Lennon, the next day, on the same programme, countered those allegations. Now, of course both men are entitled to their opinions.

However, there’s a quiet dignity to the Celtic managerial greats. Stein, Maley, McNeill, Burns, O’Neill and Rodgers; even the latter, who left so controversially, and acted so gregariously at times, had an air of authority. What they said went, and it didn’t matter if you didn’t understand it. The respect, the faith in the manager; all earned, all guaranteed and never questioned.

We’re not asking Celtic to be run like a prison, though. These qualities are the functions of a respected, disciplined boss. You have to earn that respect from players. Ronny Deila was publicly harangued by Kris Commons [BBC], while Gordon Strachan’s ongoing feud with Aiden McGeady was tiresome in the extreme [Sun]. Neither reigns, however successful, are looked upon with the same fondness.

Ange Postecoglou needs what those greats had; authority. We’ve had too many players talk openly about their future, too many players not giving 100%, and too many comments in the press or on social media. These kinds of things just don’t happen under managers that command admiration.

"Carl Starfelt to Celtic is a big possibility" | Swedish journalist Anel Avdić

For Ange Postecoglou, a clear ideology and shared mentality is crucial at Celtic

Some dysfunctional teams can get along; consider the 1999 Treble winning Manchester United team [Manchester Evening News]. However, they don’t necessarily last. Perhaps it’s a small mercy, but barring last season, we had kind of got used to units who were committed to the cause, and showed public displays of unity.

“Birthday caird…” – ah, no. What I’m not suggesting is some kind of bland façade, and “great lads in the dressing room” patter. There are personalities in this Celtic team, and in a way, it’s good to see Griffiths feel he can be able to express himself about last season.

It makes my job easier, that’s for sure.

Players like Leigh Griffiths can be excellent if handled with care / (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

But as a fan, I don’t like it. And how Postecoglou can avoid that kind of situation is making sure he has utter command of the dressing room from day one. He comes without the European reputation of O’Neill or Rodgers, but his body language, the way he conducts himself, and what he’s achieved should spark some life into the first-team. He may have to work that extra bit harder for it, but you get the sense he isn’t one to be trifled with.

If he can do that, we know what this Celtic side are capable of. Some of these players, a few who have been pilloried this season past, have the quality to be great once more.

Postecoglou’s talk about meeting the players and getting started should be an encouraging sign. Frankly, this squad needs a kick up the backside, but also need reminded of how good they can actually be.

That’s what a great manager can do. Is Postecoglou up to the task?

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