Ange Postecoglou should plunder Yokohama F Marinos to fill new Celtic vacancy

By Euan Davidson

June 29, 2021

It maybe doesn’t seem like a huge deal, in the grand scheme of Celtic and Ange Postecoglou taking over, that Jack Nayler has left the club.

The Head of Sports Science isn’t exactly a title to get pulses racing. When we win matches, we don’t normally go “that’s a huge result, and honestly, Sports Science was class out there”. There are no songs or banners celebrating the fitness regime at a club.

I’m not suggesting that ought to be the case, but if Nayler had been a player, he’d have been a marquee signing. Having worked with Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, his experience helped Brendan Rodgers to succeed. You can’t play a high-intensity style without a properly worked-out regiment of nutrition and fitness training.

And while some will suggest it’s an overstated frivolity of modern football, having designated sports science/fitness coaches is nothing new. They’re a key part of a backroom staff, whose job it is to make sure our players are as fit as possible. So, losing one of Europe’s best is a blow.

So where does Postecoglou turn now? Well, he could do far worse than his Physical Coach at Yokohama F Marinos, Damian Kovacevic.

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In Damian Kovacevic, Postecoglou had a top talent with an impressive CV. An Australian FA Football Conditioning License Holder, Kovacevic has more degrees than you can shake a stick at. These include a Doctorate in Philosophy – PhD, Sports and Exercise from Victoria University, and a a Master’s in Exercise Science.

If academics don’t impress you, his job titles might. He’s worked at the Australian Institute of Fitness, the Real Madrid Foundation’s Victoria clinic, had two stints at Melbourne Victory (winning a 2018 title in the process) and has been at the forefront of Sports Science research, with Sports Performance Tracking. The latter of whom, he wrote articles for, including this one on maintaining pace.

Footballers. Cones. Evocative imagery. / (Photo by Getty Creative)

If it sounds impressive, that’s because it is. A role with Yokohama F Marinos came at the start of last year, officially as a Physical Coach and Head of Sports Science and Strength & Conditioning. Not bad for a guy born in 1989.

Obviously, if a manager arrives, you think “they’ll bring an assistant manager from their old club”, or that they might have some key coaching positions to fill, and already have ideas. We’ve not seen a huge amount of movement in that area. But with the Nayler news, it helps that there’s an outstanding candidate who would surely relish a chance to move to Celtic.

Because, it’s good for Australian football that their top manager has come to a big European outfit. It doesn’t just open doors for the obvious, though. This could be a chance for backroom staff, including fitness trainers, Sports Scientists, scouts and whoever else to improve the reputation of Australian or Japanese football staff.

Not that they need our approval. But it would surely ease the progress of future generations who want to have options across the world.

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