It’s fair to say the arrival of Ange Postecoglou in Scotland was met with mixed reactions.
Those familiar with Ange’s achievements with club and country were quick to sing his praises, while Celtic supporters burned by a disappointing season, the unsuccessful public wooing of Eddie Howe and an unravelling relationship with the board were sceptical to say the least.
But even the most ardent of Ange-ites would have struggled to foresee the impact the former Socceroos coach would have in such a short time.
Sure, there have been a few heart in mouth moments, as some questionable defending and simple errors in possession ensured a shaky start to the season proper; with the club tumbling out of the Champions League qualifying rounds against Danish runners up Midtjylland and enduring an opening day defeat to Hearts.
But even when results were not going their way, you could still see the outline of Postecoglou’s vision and what he was trying to instil in his new wards, and one felt that as soon as the players got up to speed and ironed out a few teething problems, they were going to be a truly devastating prospect.
And devastating they have proven to be.
The Aussie’s arrival has breathed new life in to the team.
While many focused on the need for recruitment to rejuvenate a stagnant Celtic squad, players like Tom Rogic, who just twelve months ago looked just hours away from a move to Qatar, and academy product Tony Ralston are almost like new additions in themselves.
The once lackadaisical Socceroos playmaker returned looking much leaner and fitter after two seasons dominated by injury and a lack of game time, and has played a pivotal role under his former international manager.
David Turnbull too is thriving under new management, demonstrating exactly why so many Celtic supporters were begging for his inclusion last season. The former Motherwell star has proved indispensable under Postecoglou, bagging five goals and an assist across all competitions.
New recruits Kyogo Furahashi and Liel Abada have been a revelation since arriving in the summer.
While Postecoglou himself has admitted that throwing both strikers in at the deep end is less than ideal being thrown in at the deep end, they have both flourished; the attacking duo already combining for six goal contributions in the league alone.
And though defensive fragility remains, it is Angeball after all, the arrival of the experienced Joe Hart has helped settle the defence. He’s commanding his area well and showing glimpses of the old days, helping the Hoops keep two clean sheets in as many games.
Fans in Paradise
Even more impressive than the on-field impact is just how quickly the atmosphere has changed around Celtic Park.
Last season, any hopes of reaching the fabled ’10 in a row’ quickly evaporated under Neil Lennon and things became pretty toxic both on and off the park; frustration with the direction of the club and the lack of backing from the board saw fans turn on Lennon and the club hierarchy in a number of public protests.
Things were at boiling point, as discontent bubbled under the surface, and early on in the off-season there was a real risk that things may boil over into the new campaign.
But Postecoglou’s no nonsense nature and fast and furious attacking brand of football have quickly brought the feel good factor back to Parkhead, with even the most sceptical of fans very much firmly backing the newly christened ‘Big Ange’.
There’s a sense of anticipation and excitement once again around the club, only boosted by the the displays this new Celtic side have been putting in on the park.
The Old Firm
This weekend Ange’s Celtic side will face their toughest test yet, as they travel across Glasgow for their first taste of the Old Firm.
Two completely dominant performances in recent weeks have seen them rack up consecutive 6-0 league victories, and they will certainly head in to the clash in ferocious form, but as we all know, that can quickly go out the window in the heat of a derby day.
Postecoglou has travelled the globe and experienced many different faces of football in his illustrious playing and coaching career, but nothing can prepare you for the intensity of the Old Firm.
There’s little daylight between the two rivals, who sit in fourth and fifth respectively, Celtic’s superior goal difference the only thing separating the two on the ladder ahead of match day four.
But like all Old Firm games, this one is a must win for both parties.
Ange has already defied so many of the expectations placed upon him, but can he become the first Hoops manager in almost three decades to secure an away win on his derby debut?
Come Sunday, all eyes, on both sides of the world, will be firmly fixed on Ibrox to find out.