Regular readers of my work will be aware that I’m very focussed on Ange Postecoglou’s managerial tenure at Celtic. This is the seventh piece I’ve written since it was first rumoured he was in the running to the boss at Parkhead.
It’s been a lot of fun – lurking on Celtic fan forums – occasionally engaging with some of the most passionate fans in the world. I’ve already written about how the fans (for the most part) have turned around from their outrage at his appointment to fully embracing the phlegmatic Australian and his breathtaking brand of football.
That football was writ very large indeed in the last two matches – a 4-2 Europa League qualifier against Jablonec (Czech Republic) and a 6-0 deconstruction of Dundee.
It was very much Ange’s new front third signings who tore apart both of these teams – Liel Abada and Furuhashi Kyogo – but it’s a rejuvenated want-away that really caught my eye.
Ryan Christie has been a total revelation under Ange. The left wing / striker was one of the fans’ most reviled players in the last two seasons (under Neil Lennon) and told the club earlier this year he intended to leave at the end of his contract (he is now in his last season).
His game was atrocious. Frequently derided as lazy, overweight, shooting from ridiculous positions and generally playing for himself rather than the club, Christie went from one of the fans’ most loved to most hated players in a heartbeat.
But since Ange took over, Christie’s been like an entirely different player – fast, driven, utterly selfless and making constant chances for his colleagues. What has Ange said to him to get him so inspired about playing for Celtic again? Certainly the fans who wanted him gone are now clamouring for an extension.
As for the new chums: Ange has absolutely wowed the fans with his eye for a player. Liel Abada is a 19yo Israeli winger who runs like the wind and never stops trying. Very adept at getting in behind and hitting the kind of hard low crosses that terrify defenders. He’s scored a couple already also.
Most attention, however, has been on Kyogo – formerly of Vissel Kobe. Clearly an Ange appointment, he has massively opened the fans’ eyes to the underrated value of players outside Europe. Australians, of course, are only too aware of the skill levels of Japanese players – we confront it all too often.
Before he’d laced on a boot for Celtic, plenty of fans were drooling over his highlights package but doubting his ability to play the same way in Scotland where defences are so much harder and tighter. “Light weight” was a common perception.
Well, that perception didn’t last long. Kyogo has gone in two games from light weight to (in many fans’ eyes) the best new Celtic player in many many years. There is genuine love for the Japanese winger / striker who is clearly loving his time in Glasgow after a MOTM performance on the weekend – the first debut hat trick since 1919.
This week they play Jablonek at home for a crack at AZ Alkmaar in the qualifying round for the Europa League group phase, and the way they’re playing, Jablonek should be a simple assignment and AZ not beyond them. I expect Celtic to make the Europa League.
So, there’s a hell of a lot of love for Ange on the Parkhead terraces, but there is one frontier yet to be conquered. The manager appointed from Australia where football is “pish” is already being touted as a likely Celtic legend. The fans have gotten over their anti-Australian prejudice for their new manager, but they still don’t rate Australian players (despite Viduka, McDonald, Rogic).
Ange himself is many times on record as saying that one of his great ambitions is to make the world appreciate the value of Australian football – players and managers. Presuming he’s successful (and I think he will be) he will be opening up new opportunities for other talented managers of the Antipodes.
But what about players? Ange has also lamented the down-valuing of Australian players – an Australian player of equal ability to a European player is typically worth a tenth of the Euro price. For some reason this dissuades Euro clubs from signing Australian players when you’d think the opportunity to cash in on that untapped value would make excellent business sense.
Ange, himself, now has an opportunity to change that thinking by bringing in one or two Australian players suitable for his system. There’s a rumour he’s looking at an Australian striker and I, for one, would love to see Jamie MacLaren get another chance overseas. He’d be a sensation playing with Abada, Kyogo and Christie and would cost bugger all.
Another one I’d love to see tried at Celtic is Nathaniel Atkinson. He is such a good player and would fill a spot where Celtic clearly need options. He’s also a really versatile player and could fill in all over the shop. Like MacLaren, he’d be super cheap by Euro standards and given a decent stage would rapidly increase in value.
Both of these players should be no-brainers for Ange and would give many Australians further incentive to take an interest in the SPL.
In any case, I’ve no doubt that Ange is going to be a massive success at Celtic. I just hope he drags the reputation of Australian football up in his wake.
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.