Ange Postecoglou repeatedly said he didn’t care about external criticism when he was hired as Celtic boss, but that doesn’t mean Aussies aren’t taking a victory lap right now.
On Thursday morning, when Celtic claimed the league title in the Australian manager’s maiden season, it was a world away from when he arrived, less than a year ago.
Opinions were split, as they often are when teams try something new. Sometimes, like Andre Villas-Boas at Chelsea or Quique Setien at Barcelona, it blows up in their faces, as fans lamented not getting in a ‘proper football man’ who ‘knows the club’, whatever that means.
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But the reverse is equally possible. Marcelo Bielsa’s appointment at Leeds was criticized by a big chunk of fans, who wanted a British coach like Sam Allardyce or Steve Bruce before quickly eating humble pie.
And Postecoglou detractors are now doing the same.
The world of talkback radio is the same in most places – filled with poorly-researched and ill-informed opinions – and the British football scene is no different.
There was plenty of scoffing when rumors of Postecoglou’s appointment began making their way across newsdesks in the UK – but none more infamous than former Scotland striker Alan Brazil.
A regular on TalkSport, Brazil read a rumor linking Postecoglou to Celtic’s then vacant manager role, while co-host and Rangers legend Ally McCoist cackled with glee (watch video of the infamous radio moment at the top of the page).
Ignoring the mispronunciation of Postecoglou, the dismissive attitude of Brazil was duly noted by plenty of Aussie football fans at the time – who have relished sporadically bringing it up ever since.
“This has got to be a wind up,” Brazil said, before sarcastically adding that Postecoglou’s appointment would be “great”.
The 62-year-old has ignored plenty of chances to correct the record, with Celtic flying all season and officially clinching the title today – but has for the most part declined to do so, apart from in April when he said “I knew he would come good. I knew my man would come good.”
Of course, rhetoric like this is largely harmless – and those that keep bringing it up to gloat are equally so.
But it does help emphasize a wider point about the insular nature of football, particularly in the UK, where there is hardly a bigger sin from a managerial point of view than being from a non-traditional footballing background, or even worse, being unable to speak English.
Angel praises Celtic
Postecoglou has done a lot for the profile of managers from less-heralded nations, and has laid a blueprint to succeed – but how he continues that on now, is the question.
Celtic are playing sumptuous football at times, but the next step will be getting the club firing in continental football.
It’s been more than a decade since the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura, Georgios Samaras, and even Australia’s own Scott McDonald scored key goals for the club on big European nights, but that could all be about to change.
Celtic won’t have to go through an arduous qualifying campaign this time, though, and will instead be put straight into the group stage of next year’s UEFA Champions League.
How the team performs is yet to be seen – but Postecoglou has brought success wherever he’s gone, and this is just the next challenge.
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