I’m guessing a lot more Australians will be watching the Scottish Premier League this season.
I’ve always had a passing interest in the Scottish league but it was just that – enlivened occasionally by renegade Australians like Viduka, Moore, McDonald, Muscat, Irvine, Rogic, McLaren and anyone else who was carrying our flag north of the Tweed.
All of these have been favourite players of mine (yes, even Muscat – I would’ve loved him at the Mariners) but oddly enough, it’s the presence of an Australian coach that has excited me like never before for the SPL.
And not just me. Obviously, it’s old news now that Ange Postecoglou has taken over as manager of Celtic, but everyone I know is still talking about it and wondering how they can watch Celtic matches this season.
The various Celtic fan forums are awash with new Aussie members yapping at the locals about how Ange will turn the SPL on its ear and it’s been amusing to read the auld guard’s evolving reaction to both the manager and their new Aussie forumites.
The initial shock and outrage has passed through various phases via anger – disgust – weary acceptance – to cautious optimism and even wild enthusiasm as Ange begins to spread his message on social media.
Mind you, the Aussie forumites are no shrinking violets and perfectly happy to preach the virtues of Angeball to the poor benighted Glasgow natives who’ve not previously had the chance to bask in the Postecoglou glory.
Given the famous Scottish hospitality there have been some predictably warm responses – mainly along the lines of “Australian football is pish!” “Ange won’t have a clue what he’s walking into!” “The pressure of the Celtic job has crushed far more experienced managers than Ange!” “You new Aussies on here are a smug bunch of c#%&s whae can git tae f#&&!!!”
But for the most part, it’s more or less settled down as the fans – Glaswegian and Australian alike – await some new signings and results of the first pre-season matches.
The squad desperately needs to be freshened up. Ange would need at least half a dozen players of first team quality right now to go into the Champions League qualifier on 20 July (against Awer Mabil’s Midtjylland FC) with any real confidence.
Mind you, the message coming away from the team (and judging by the videos) is that the bhoys are very much enjoying the sessions and find them challenging, but genuinely seem excited about where the manager is taking them.
Those of us familiar with the Ange system will anticipate something like a 433 or occasional 352 with fast, fit players pressing all over the park. Then keeping the ball once they win it and playing through the lines, or around them, with a focus on fast ball movement – one or two touch wherever possible. Starve the enemy of possession and grind them down with wave after wave of attack.
This is what all the best Ange teams have done (with the exception of his first WC Socceroos) and they’ve always been successful.
I think his biggest learning curve will be the very different player / agent shenanigans culture in Europe that he won’t have much (or any) experience with. He’s walking into a squad where some of the more high profile players are on record as wanting away under the previous regime. Players like Odsonne Edouard and Kristoffer Ajer will be hard to replace so need to be sold ASAP – or resigned.
Ange the mega-motivator may well get into their heads and inspire them to be part of the journey. He’ll make them better players and get them much better deals if/when they do finally leave, but I hope he can keep them for now as those two players – at their best – add some much needed quality. (Mooy also please. There’s a whisper he could be available on a free transfer.)
Mind you, Ange will make the entire squad better players – those that buy into his message. I loved seeing the smiles on the faces of the (mainly) youth team he’s been working with so far but this week his key professionals will be back in training and those are the ones he really needs to convince. Much will be learned from the three friendlies to be played over the next week and a bit.
As for myself – a man rediscovering his Gaelic roots (Glencoe McDonalds on my father’s side – Irish Catholic on my mother’s side) – could I possibly have better ethnic credentials to be a Celtic fan?
I’ll go back on the Celtic forums and say: “Whae telt ye abit Ange? Telt ye masel ya doss radges! Any yin says different ahll offer a square go!”
That will make me even more popular than I am now.
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. His first sci-fi novel will be published by Hague Publishing in late 2021.