I love lurking on fan forums. They’re always a source of information (because someone, somewhere, always knows something) but are also places of lively banter and amusing acrimony.
So over the weekend, all roads led to the Celtic forums where fans were in a meltdown reminiscent of the Arsenal outrage when Arsene Wenger was appointed. “Arsene Who?” screamed the famous headline, and we all know how that turned out.
It’s now “Ange Who?” and the condemnation of fans has been incendiary.
‘Ahm no payin one penny more tae this club until they sort out this disaster!’ is a common theme.
The appointment of an Australian with no European experience (beyond a brief stint in the Greek 3rd division) is described by many as an utter outrage that emphasises exactly how far the mighty Celtic have fallen.
When some point out the fact that Ange has won the league in every job he’s had, plus the Asian Cup of 2015 and World Cup qualification for 2018, those accomplishments are contemptuously waved aside because Asian and Australian football are “pish”.
I’m not entirely sure what pish is, but it does sound very negative.
The one thing the fans do agree on is that the club needs to be rebuilt from the ground up – which means getting rid of Neil Lennon’s assistants (Kennedy and Strachan) who are believed, by many, to be a main part of the problem.
Well, who better than Ange to pull off that kind of job? He’s the man that walked into Brisbane Roar and sacked the old guard, then a year later had them playing some of the best football the A-League has ever seen (Roarcelona). That team (I think) still holds the A-League record for an undefeated run.
Then (after setting up Victory for Kevin Muscat) he took on the National Team and weeded out the last of the Golden Generation (with the exception of Tim Cahill) to start building for the Asian Cup of 2015. We lost every WC match in 2014 but you could see what he trying to do. Our performances against Chile, Netherlands and Spain were outstanding and they laid the foundation for the Asian Cup shortly afterwards.
Then he ripped up the template.
Having given the team success at the Asian Cup, he changed from a conservative 4231 and challenged them to play a much more attacking 352 with the idea being to score one more goal than we concede. It was hair-raising stuff as the team struggled to adapt – and of course, a NT coach doesn’t have access to his players all the time so bedding in a radical new system is bound to have some bugs.
But it started to work, and by the time we qualified for Russia 2018 everyone, including the media, was comfortable and we had made ourselves very difficult to play against. Confidence was high that we could actually achieve something in the finals but then, to the astonishment of all, Ange walked away.
To some, it looked like petulance – taking his bat and going home. To others there was a hint of something more sinister – that he’d left his post in order to be appointed to the Yokohama job by the City Football Group.
Ange never quite gave his reasons for leaving, beyond saying his job was done and making some vague reference to the “powers that be” not appreciating his style. Players suggest he was hounded out by the media, but I don’t accept that. The media had pretty much turned around given the resurgent success of the team and the comprehensive victory against Honduras. His stocks could hardly have been higher at the point he left.
I daresay we’ll never really know but, if he is appointed to the Celtic job, what will he bring?
Firstly, he will walk open-eyed into Parkhead, understanding fully the enormity of the challenge – indeed, that’s what will be most attractive to him. It’s a monster – the Celtic manager’s job – and would destroy anyone without the requisite steel.
He will demand control of a club that the fans suggest is truly run by an over-meddlesome CEO and board. The instant Ange feels he no longer has control, he will walk. Can he actually demand control – I’d suggest Ange Postecoglou is one of the few managers anywhere who could stare down the likes of Peter Lawwell and insist on his terms.
He will bring modern methods to Celtic and develop youth, as he has always done. He will also bring a profound knowledge of all the best players in Asia for potential transfer. Above all he will impose the shape and system that has been so successful in Japan, requiring players to be super fit, aggressive, with excellent touch, all knowing their roles to the letter.
The biggest danger I see is the staff left in place to “support” him. Ange doesn’t have a Euro Pro license so needs someone with that qualification as an assistant. That assistant could easily turn toxic and go running to the board if he feels that “Skippy is getting too big for his boots.” Especially if results don’t come quickly as Ange rings the changes.
Hopefully he brings his own assistants from Yokohama – especially John Hutchinson who is the quintessential football man to translate the vision at training and play good cop to Ange’s bad cop.
The other dangers are the media and the fans. The media would just love him to fail so they can wax lyrical with marsupial-themed headlines. And the fans will be deeply suspicious and will not give him the time he needs to turn the club around.
Famously prickly with the media, this could easily be his downfall. He will need the media to translate his vision to the fans, so if he doesn’t get them onside early it could all end in tears before Xmas.
If appointed (and done quickly) he’ll have a whole pre-season to change the club. I’ve got no doubt at all he has the ability and personality to take on Celtic and get them back to the top of the SPL.
But will he be allowed the time to make it work? Reading the forum again this morning it appears that some of the fans are starting to come on board.
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. His new novel, Welcome to Ord City, is now available.