In the wake of the release of a bizarre statement confirming that Eddie Howe would not be joining the club, the latest in a long list of questionable decisions by the Celtic hierarchy, rumours began to emerge that former Socceroos manager Ange Postecoglou had emerged as the leading candidate for Scottish football’s most desirable vacancy.
To say the reaction has been mixed would be a huge understatement.
In his homeland, the news was greeted with surprise and excitement.
A manager who had brought so much joy to Australian football fans over the years being given a break by one of Europe’s most prestigious clubs would send shockwaves through the game.
Within the UK, supporters have decreed him not worthy of the job, mainly because they’ve never heard of him, to major news outlets getting his nationality wrong.
For the benefit of those who haven’t followed his career, Postecoglou is a hugely experienced and successful coach, who possesses a CV that would be the envy of many a top-flight manager.
A tough, no-nonsense NSL defender in his playing days, he has re-invented himself as one of the world’s most forward thinking, innovative coaches, whose teams play an exciting, attacking and ruthless brand of football.
He’s driven, and a proven winner; enjoying domestic, continental and international success that has led to an unbelievable list of honours; ranging from multiple NSL titles and an Oceania Club Championship with his beloved South Melbourne, to major successes on the international stage with the Australian national teams.
His Brisbane Roar side went 36 games unbeaten, an Australian record that stands to this day, lifting back-to-back A-League Premierships while playing an attractive, possession based game that earned them the iconic ‘Roar-celona’ moniker.
Handed the reins for the national side after a brief stint at Melbourne Victory, he had the unenviable task of replacing Australia’s ‘Golden Generation.
His in-experienced Socceroos side put in gutsy performances against leading opposition at the 2014 World Cup, before lifting the Asian Cup the following year.
Most recently, his free-flowing attacking brand of football has seen his Yokohoma Marinos lift their first J-League title in 15 years.
Postecoglou is undoubtedly one of Australia’s greatest ever coaches, but leading Celtic would be unlike any other challenge he has ever faced.
The Glaswegian outfit have dominated the landscape of Scottish football since Rangers’ fall from grace, winning nine titles in a row, achieving a quadruple double along the way, as their Old Firm rivals were left to climb back up the pyramid.
But 2020-21 was a season to forget for the Hoops.
Dethroned by Steven Gerrard’s resurgent Rangers, and failing to pick up any silverware for the first time in over a decade, a dark cloud hung over Celtic Park all season.
As the prospect of the ‘ten in a row’ slipped away, fans turned on the board and club legend Neil Lennon, descending on Parkhead in protest, attempting to force through change at the club.
There has always been an expectation, and some might argue a sense of entitlement for success at Celtic.
Last season’s performance, continued incompetence from the board and the unsuccessful, and very public, courtship of former Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has led to a toxic atmosphere and unprecedented levels of pressure.
Club legend Scott Brown has departed for Aberdeen, and first team stars Kristoff Ajer and Odsonne Edouard look certain to follow him out of the door.
The squad is in desperate for need of a rebuild, a prospect Postecoglou would undoubtedly relish, but he would need to do so under the weight of expectation that Celtic would immediately be challenging in the Premiership, both domestic cups, and for European success that has long eluded them.
He is a manager, like Guardiola, Rodgers and Bielsa that needs to mould a team in his own image.
He demands total control, and requires everyone, on and off the pitch, to buy in to his vision.
One has but to take a glance across the city to see what can come from that level of patience and investment; it took Gerrard three seasons to overhaul his squad before they were able to get their hands on a first bit of silverware.
Rangers fans would say it was worth the wait.
Every time Postecoglou has been handed full authority, success has followed, but it’s hard to see him receiving this level of backing at a club who lost out on their first choice manager by refusing to let him bring in his own backroom staff.
And if the online backlash is anything to go by, with his achievements widely dismissed based on little more than geography or a perceived quality of the associated leagues, Ange will not be given the courtesy of time by the supporters either.
Hold the press
Another stumbling block could be Postecoglou’s well-documented complicated relationship with the media.
The Old Firm don’t just dominate matters on the field in Scotland; they hold a monopoly within the Scottish football media.
A Celtic manager lives his life under the microscope; journalists and fan media dissecting their every move and mannerism over and over, as they aim to quench the endless thirst for stories and speculation.
The press have certainly become accustomed to a certain way of doing things and a certain level of access that could set them on a collision course with a manager that has a track record of fallings out with the far more lenient Australian media.
If he were to alienate them, it could prove deadly.
They will pour petrol on the fire, fuelling the flames of discontent.
A poisoned chalice
Should Postecoglou get the job, which if reports are to be believed now hinges on compensation with his current club, his arrival will be shrouded in doubt and disappointment.
Scottish football has a deep-seated distrust for outsiders. They like what they know.
But Ange has always been an outsider; growing up as an immigrant in Australia, and a life in the “wrong” code of football has already ensured that.
Given time, those familiar with his work have no doubt he could become a Celtic great, and pave the way for more talented Australian coaches to make the move to Europe.
However, the immense pressure for short term success, an uphill battle to win favour with a very vocal element of the fan base and the continuance of off-field controversies could see this dream opportunity quickly descend in to a thing of nightmares.
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