Lawrie McKinna is a former striker who played in the SPL (Kilmarnock); NSL (Heidelberg, APIA Leichhardt, Blacktown, Newcastle Strikers); coached in the NSL and A-League (Sydney United, Parramatta Power, Northern Spirit, Central Coast Mariners) and was an A-League CEO (Newcastle Jets). He played against Ange Postecoglou and coached against him so might have just a few clues about the Celtic manager despite his heart beating blue.

AD: You grew up a Rangers fan but played for Kilmarnock. So what was it like playing against Rangers?

LM: We were as often in the Championship as the SPL when I was playing, and when we were in the SPL I tended always to be injured or out of favour when we played Rangers. But as it happens my first ever professional match, in the reserves, was at Ibrox… where I’d been as a fan just the previous weekend. We were smashed about six blot but I didnae care as I got to contribute to a Rangers victory.

AD: You played in the NSL when Ange was playing for South Melbourne. Do you remember playing against him?

LM: Aye. He was a defender, and captain I think, in a strong South Melbourne team that had a few Scots as I recall. He was a really tidy player… very tough opponent… always in exactly the right place which didnae much suit me, being a striker. When I played for Heidelberg that was the Greek Derby so the terraces were always packed and the atmosphere was about as close as you’d get to a European match in those days. Ange was a Socceroo and a player of serious stature. Very much the ringleader on those occasions.

AD: You coached against him also?

LM: Never in the A-League, but I coached against him when I was with Davie Mitchell at Sydney United and Parramatta Power. He’d also use the Mariners sometimes for trial matches when he was in charge of the Under 23 Australia team. 

AD: He’s famously aloof from his own players, how does he mix with other coaches?

LM: He mostly kept to himself but was always approachable. I’ve called him a few times over the years to ask about players or other football business and he’d always take the call. Always made time. I know he made himself available for career advice quite a lot for Hutcho [John Hutchinson] and that was before he brought Hutch to Yokohama as assistant.

AD: So how well do you know Ange?

LM: I’d never claim to be close to him but I probably know him as well as most in the Australian game. He’s very much a straight shooter. Always says what he thinks. You get no bullshit from Ange and his players really appreciate that… as do the fans and the media. Mostly.

AD: Do you remember the way his Brisbane Roar team used to play?

LM: Absolutely. Very much possession based, always wanting to pass the other team into submission. Always wanting to pass through the lines which takes a lot of movement and discipline… and belief. He’s very big on getting the players to believe in him and the system. You can see quite obviously that’s what he’s brought to Celtic but they’ve not quite got it right yet… especially against the bus-parking teams. They’re definitely improving though and, Celtic being Celtic, they’ll go into the market in January for more Ange style players and strengthen for a hard tilt at the title.

AD: That’ll be music to the ears of Celts but what do you mean by Celtic being Celtic?

LM: Well, Ange has just started to build his Celtic project. He won’t be anywhere near satisfied with what he’s got and if the club are going to encourage him to stay long term they’ll have to back him and his vision, but they’re a big club and have never been scared to buy a few players.

AD: Not enough players if the fan forums are right. But speaking of fans and fan forums, when Ange was appointed they went into meltdown. Who is he? What’s he done? Yes man accepting a dream job but won’t make waves against the board etc… It’s a very different conversation on the fan forums now.

LM: I’ve never been anywhere near a Celtic fan forum, for which I daily thank God, but I think the fans’ anger was more about the Eddie Howe fiasco… how long it dragged on and then fell apart. Ange copped the brunt of that but Japanese and Australian football are not at all on the radar of Scottish fans, with just a few exceptions when it comes to players, like Tommy Rogic and the boy Kyogo. They’re regarded as too good for their home leagues.

AD: Like you were regarded as too good for the SPL and came out to play for Box Hill?

LM: Exactly! But there’s just as much ignorance in Australia about Scottish football as there is in Scotland about Australian football. Maybe a bit less now in both places, which is part of the reason I wish Ange really well. But not too well.

AD: How are Australians ignorant of Scottish football?

LM: They don’t respect it. It’s not the EPL or La Liga or Serie A, so they don’t understand how difficult the league is. Quality comes in all sorts of packages and even Messi would struggle playing at Aberdeen in the middle of February. I had snowballs flung at me in my day! Being able to play in those conditions with the pressing and marking so tight. No-one’s got an inch to move so it takes character, strength and a lot of skill. But a lot more Australians are watching the SPL now because of Ange and I hope they come to appreciate the league for what it is.

AD: You helped bring Tom Rogic to the Mariners when you were Director of Football, has he reached his peak?

LM: He’s doing really well under Ange but I think he can still go to another level. He’s noticeably fitter and stronger and if he can just get more consistency… playing at that level more often and for longer… he’ll be a super important player for them. He already is. They struggle when he’s not there.

AD: A lot of commentators suggest he should have gone to a more technical league like the German or Dutch league – and he famously turned down Arsenal. Do you know why he did that?

LM: No, but it might have been more to do with his agent. I’ve heard people say he was worried Tommy would never get a game at Arsenal but I’ve also heard Tom genuinely loves Glasgow. And he’s playing for a team that has mostly dominated in the years he’s been at the club and that’s always attractive to a player, especially a player with so much finesse. He needs the team mates around him who can enable him… give him the time and space to do his thing and make the sorts of runs he needs. And Ange is the perfect manager for him with the perfect system so he must be pretty happy right now.

AD: As a Celt myself I’m delighted he’s in the Hoops but what do you think? Do you wish he was at Rangers?

LM: Well he’s tainted now, isn’t he. We could always use a player with his level of skill... especially with his left foot, but you could count on one hand the players who’ve played for both clubs. There’s a reason for that.

AD: Which other Celtic players have impressed you since Ange came on board?

LM: Ralston… the captain McGregor is really important to Ange’s style. And Kyogo is a fantastic player when he’s not diving about to win penalties. He’s letting himself down with that sort of behaviour.

AD: Rangers players of course don’t need to dive when the refs are so prone to “honest mistakes”. Ask the Hibs fans how they feel about that. He’s not brought in any Australians yet. If you were to identify just one Aussie player who’d do well for Ange…

LM: Definitely Mooy. He’s perfect for Ange’s system… attacking midfielder who wins tackles and sets up chances. Fantastic dead ball player, and I hear his family are already in Glasgow. I’d be amazed if they haven’t had a few quiet discussions. We’d take him like a shot at Rangers. Another one Ange could look at is Adam Taggart… exactly the sort of finisher Ange doesn’t already have and he’s done well in Asia in strong leagues... always in the right place.

AD: The Scottish media have a reputation for trying to goad a headline out of managers but Ange seems to be holding them off pretty effectively…

LM: I think that’s a big part of why the fans have really warmed to Ange, and not just Celtic fans. The media ask him questions about all sorts of things unrelated to what he sees as his role so he just points that out and makes them look silly. They’ve had to become much more circumspect now in the sorts of things they ask him which plays perfectly into his hands. He’s got most of them tamed. He also never tries to pull snow jobs or personal marketing jobs like some managers do. He’s got no agenda beyond the welfare of the club, his players and the fans and everyone respects that. I love the way he deals with the fans after matches… gives them a lot of his time which all managers should do. He’s a breath of fresh air.

AD: And Van Bronkhorst?

LM: He might be also. Did you know that no Rangers manager since the 1960s has won his first four games? I think the club did a great a job getting in someone of his experience and quality so quickly when it could all have fallen apart with Stevie G’s sudden departure. He’s continued the climb that Gerrard started but made the team more aggressive also.

AD: Do Rangers fear the Hoops breathing down their necks?

LM: Dinnae gie us yer shite! We respect Celtic but never fear them. I think it’ll be a close race all the way to the end but that’s exactly what everyone wants… neutrals at least. I genuinely believe this will be a truly memorable season and Ange will be a big part of that.

AD: Celtic entertain Rangers at Parkhead on 2 January. It’s a game of massive importance to the league…

LM: Aye, those New Years games are fantastic occasions, I’d love to be there. We were maybe a little bit lucky at Ibrox because Edouard missed that sitter in the early minutes. It would’ve been a different game if he’d scored but we were definitely the better team in the second half. Of course, Celtic are a different team now and Ange has got his system much more settled. They’ll be a tough proposition at home.

AD: This season, of course, is particularly significant as the league champion gets direct entry to the Champions League, worth an instant 40 mill pounds. How desperately do Rangers need that money?

LM: Celtic have had heaps of Champions League money over the last decade while we’ve had financial restrictions. So we could use the money, no question, but Celtic want it too. Like I said, I wish Ange well, but not too well. I’d prefer him to come second.

AD: Any final comments?

LM: Nothing prepares you for going into the cauldron of Old Firm management and Ange has done an unbelievable job of getting his team competitive and everyone… even the media on side so quickly. But Ange has been successful everywhere else and I hope that his success, presuming he is successful in Scotland, opens doors for more Australians… both players and coaches. For Ange to do well at such a big club would mean the world for other coaches and raise the reputation of Australian football all round. Also, can we sign off this interview with “We Are The People”?

AD: No, I don’t think so.

Adrian the Fenian'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 2022.