I’ve been having an interesting time on the Celtic Forums in recent weeks as Ange gradually firms as their new manager.
There’s been a predictable level of anti-Australian prejudice. We’ve seen that before in Europe regarding our players, but it’s a new phenomenon when it comes to coaches.
So not only do the Celtic fans believe we can’t play, they are absolutely certain that we can’t coach. This is despite the fact that FIFA currently rate Australia 41 and Scotland 44. (Japan are 28 but the Celtic fans don’t rate them either.)
With the possible exception of Graham Arnold, Ange is clearly the best (currently practising) Australian coach in world football. His appointment by Celtic - one of the biggest clubs in the world - would be massive news for the Australian game.
On the Celtic forums, I’ve been fighting the anti-Australian prejudice – praising Ange's achievements, strong character, man management, attention to detail, clear match strategy, lack of media fear etc, and waved aside such trivial matters as the massive, suffocating expectation of Celtic fans.
But on reflection there is one aspect to managing Celtic that I suspect he's never had to deal with...
All Australian league teams he managed were small groups - underfunded or salary capped - and very grateful to be there. Accordingly, it was simple enough to build a siege mentality or at least a very strong sense of brotherhood that bound the lads together, with no elite players seen as privileged - or separate - or beyond the horizon of the lesser names.
All for one and one for all.
Same goes for his NT selections. They were all desperate to be there and paid the same (not that they were there for the money).
Japan was similar-ish. He had a substantially bigger budget but there is an aspect of Japanese culture that tends to put the collective above the individual. No Sparkling Saki Charlies.
European football is different. Very different - the way players are paid and teams are put together. It's well documented that players (and their agents) in Europe are way more cynical - every man for themselves despite the occasional lip service and badge kissing. I don't think Ange will have dealt with this before. Which means it will be significantly harder for him to create the sort of group mindset that has always served him so well.
Maybe he'll already know that? If not he'll soon work it out.
Accordingly, I reckon he'll want to bring in as many players as he can to put his own stamp on their selection, and will probably focus on youth where there might still be a little bit of altruism and idealism. He might also be looking for some genuine Celtic fans among the youth players to make his One Team message easier to get across.
But that - the cynical insulation of professionals from each other - is the one aspect of the job that will be totally alien to him. And exactly the point of leverage that agents may seek to exploit to put pressure on him, if that suits their broader strategies.
So maybe he needs some players he knows?
If I were Ange, needing a minimum of six new first team players, these would be my immediate Australian targets:
Aaron Mooy – already on stupid money in China but still capable of being a star in the SPL. Has a Scottish wife so plenty of non-football reasons to sign.
Harry Souttar – young CB gone to a massive new level at Stoke City since selection for Australia.
Riley McGree – another 22 year old playing for Birmingham. Fantastic player and clearly ready to go to a new level. Would be comparatively cheap.
Mat Ryan – living the dream as a boyhood Arsenal fan but unlikely to displace Bernd Leno any time soon. Could be tempted north with the promise of first team football.
Kenny Dougal – just had a breakout season for Blackpool – defensive midfielder who scores goals.
Jamie MacLaren – fresh from his third golden boot in the A-League, J-Mac has gone to a lethal new level and has already played in Scotland.
These six players are already known to Ange – high quality – have UK work permits and would be comparatively cheap.
Over to you Ange. Could be the making of you...
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