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Trailblazing Ange puts final nail in doubters' coffin

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5 days ago
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Success is the greatest driver of narrative change in all walks of life, football included.

When Ange Postecoglou – arguably the greatest manager the A-League Men has ever seen, a J-League title winner and the man at the helm of one of Australian football’s greatest feats, the 2015 Asian Cup victory – signed with Celtic in June of last year, all of British football erupted in outrage.

TalkSport radio host Alan Brazil questioned the appointment. “Is this a wind up?” he asked on air. Co-host and Rangers legend Ally McCoist – one of Celtic’s eternal rivals – expressed delight at the appointment.

“Honestly, I shouldn’t wallow in your despair,” McCoist said. “But I’m loving every minute of it, it’s fantastic!”

Even his new fans were indifferent with the news. Celtic’s Twitter announcement of the Australian’s appointment was received with a mixed reaction.

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Some rejoiced that their search for a manager had finally ended, others were stunned and shocked by the man given the job after negotiations with current Newcastle manager Eddie Howe fell through.

Nearly 12 months after his appointment, one of Australia’s favourite sons has delivered on his promise to return Celtic back where it belongs: the top.

A 1-1 draw this week with Dundee United confirmed Postecoglou’s first taste of European silverware. The title was wrapped up with a game in hand. And haven’t they won it in some style.

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou at full time during a cinch Premiership match between Celtic and Rangers at Celtic Park, on February 02, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group via Getty Images)

(Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group via Getty Images)

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Ninety points (so far). A league-leading 86 goals scored and 22 goals conceded.

The Hoops failed to score in just 14 per cent of their matches throughout the season and averaged 67 per cent of possession, a hallmark of the style of football Postecoglou is renowned for throughout Australasia.

They trounced Rangers 3-0 in February, scored four or more goals seven times throughout their title-winning campaign and scored three goals on eight other occasions.

They had an exhibition of attacking football and flair, led by loanee Jota, who topped their assist chart with ten.

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And there was another signing from Japan who was shrouded in scepticism when he arrived: Kyogo Furuhashi. He ends his maiden European campaign with ten goals so far.

Such is the style of football that Postecoglou employs, three Celtic players scored ten or more goals this season, with Jota missing out by a single strike.

Postecoglou has bred a possession style of football into this side. They averaged 67 per cent possession for the season, with an xG of 2.54.

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His side is high-octane and attacking-focused, but as we in Australia and those in Japan know, that does not come at the expense of steeliness and grit. The Guardian’s Ewan Murray said just that.

Six Celtic players were named in the Scottish PFA Team of the Year, and four were signed by Postecoglou, further testament to the success and results he has brought with him.

In his post-match press conference, Postecoglou expressed his enormous pride in his team’s ability to constantly lift throughout the year to deliver success.

“Just an enormous effort — really proud of the players, staff, our supporters, everyone involved,” he stated.

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“The character this team’s shown to get through the last 31 games and rise to every challenge — as I said, I couldn’t be more proud of them.

“No one gave us much of a chance at the start of the year and to do what they’ve done this year and achieve the ultimate is an unbelievable effort.”

Ange Postecoglou is seen at full time

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Postecoglou’s season is reminiscent of Herman Boone, the coach of the famous 1971 TC Williams High School football team, dramatised in the film Remember the Titans. He was informed that if the team lost a single game throughout that season, he would be dismissed from his position.

Postecoglou was inflicted with severe doubt and public scrutiny and the brutality of football means the reality of his sacking should results have not been initially promising is not out of the realm of possibility.

But Postecoglou, like Boone, overcame external noise and pressure to produce greatness, and he now has the green and white part of Glasgow at his feet.

His success, and the uncompromising manner with which he delivered it, has turned the initial narrative of ignorance and doubt into one of optimism and divine praise.

Ewan Murray of The Guardian writes that off the back of his success, Postecoglou can do no wrong. He could even add the aforementioned McCoist, hated among Celtic faithful for his 1990s success with Rangers, to his coaching staff and there would be no furore or outrage akin to when the Australian was appointed.

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In a season when Celtic wrestled the league title back from Rangers, their tenth in 11 years, Postecoglou laid the foundations for future domestic and potentially European success. He has proved doubters wrong not only with the team’s on-field performance, but also his mannerisms and attitude off it.

He is a trailblazer in every sense of the word, paving the way for managers from obscure footballing leagues and nations, like Japan and Australian, to enter the European environment and succeed by remaining true to the processes that delivered them glory elsewhere.

He has helped in some way to reduce the stigma around foreign managers and acclimatise a large audience with the fact that the name and nationality of the manager does not translate to their ability.

And most pertinently, he has reiterated the fact that nothing kills doubt quite like success.

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