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Postecoglou & Celtic: It CAN work; Yokohama proof enough for concerned fans

COMMENT: Ange Postecoglou and Celtic. It can work. Indeed, it could be spectacular. But he and his backers inside Parkhead will need everyone connected to Celtic to get right behind him...

First the backlash. Or better yet, what backlash? Beyond a couple of tasty headlines, Postecoglou is taking on the job with a groundswell of support and goodwill behind him. Yeah, we've had a story about a clash with Ally McCoist. But that was almost a decade ago. The player at the centre of the row, Matt McKay, is long retired. A fringe player, at best, with Rangers, the 'clash' was barely a disagreement. That it was a problem with bean counters at Ibrox is hardly going to put off any Hoops fans.

And we've also had Postecoglou's famous run-in with an Aussie pundit on local TV. But again, this isn't exactly a black mark against him. What Celtic fan would resent their manager giving some gobs***e pundit both barrels?

The exes are having their say. As is the Celtic support. But there's no fantasists amongst this lot. They know the state of Parkhead. And they accept the reality of what Postecoglou is stepping into. If the initial reaction is anything to go by, the Australian will not only be warmly welcomed, but also granted the time and patience to get his feet under the table.

And he'll need it. No football director. No recruitment manager. The CEO is leaving. The club's captain has gone. His star striker, Odsonne Edouard, is expected to soon follow. As is his top centre-half, Kristoffer Ajer. Can you really blame Eddie Howe pulling out like he did? But as mentioned, those connected to Celtic know what Postecoglou is confronting.

On first flush, the rolling 12 month deal is a concern. There's always the danger of the bad influences; the 'too comfortable' types undermining the manager, knowing the club can split with him for a pittance if it doesn't work out.

But it must be said, Postecoglou isn't one to butt heads. First and foremost, he's more a coach than a British style manager. He'll work with what he has. Seek to improve it. And as he's shown in Japan, Postecoglou is willing to be pragmatic when it comes to personnel and circumstance.

That's not to say he can't pick a player. Incoming chief exec Dominic McKay has mentioned Postecoglou's "contacts", declaring the Aussie is "very well-connected in global football". And if given the leeway, Postecoglou is capable of uncovering a gem or two.

The time in charge of his Brisbane Roar title winners was dominated by a player he personally scouted and signed from the other side of the globe. Thomas Broich being plucked from Germany's Second Division on a free transfer. The move only coming to fruition after months of scouting and personal checks, all on Postecoglou's own dime. And the time and money invested proved worth it. Broich going onto win two A-League titles and also twice being named the competition's Player of the Year.

Of course, for the cv, it's the international experience that catches the eye. Taking on a World Cup qualifying team. Four years later leading the next one to the finals - before stepping down. And between winning the Asian Cup on home soil. Good achievements. But it must be said, not unexpected. For individual quality, it was poor tournament in 2015, but Australia could only beat what was put in front of them.

Instead, what should assure Celtic fans is the work of Postecoglou at Yokohama F. Marinos (where he coached a 17 year-old Takefusa Kubo, no less). Massive club. Massive resources. It took Postecoglou just the one season to put his methods in place. The Aussie bringing the J-League title back to Yokohama for the first time in 15 years in 2019. That season culminating with a 63,000 gate for a final day win against FC Tokyo.

Significantly, Postecoglou did it without turning to any Australian talent. Instead, he worked with the Marinos front office to bring in chosen imports, while also tapping the local Asian transfer market. While rivals went with the likes of David Villa, Andres Iniesta and Lukas Podolski, Postecoglou won that title by backing and improving the talent Marinos had assembled him. Again, with his international experience behind him, from the U17 and U20 teams through to the senior national side, Postecoglou is a coach first.

And as a coach, he does have his ways. His system. But he will be pragmatic when needed. Murdo MacLeod's advice to Postecoglou was simply "win" - and he will, if needed, put winning football ahead of any wistful claims of entertainment-first from his friends in the local media.

Celtic will play at a snap. And it will be attractive. But there'll be an edge to it. This is, after all, a manager who built his Melbourne Victory team on the back of former Ger Kevin Muscat. Though significantly, he also brought out the best of Muscat's passing game in the process.

That's Postecoglou's approach in a nutshell. And it should be something to lift Celtic's players. James Forrest describing the appointment as "exciting" shouldn't be dismissed as glib football-speak. Taking the word of teammate and Australia international Tom Rogic, Forrest clearly has caught the vibe. Postecoglou is a player's coach. He won't be there to butt heads.

Instead, Postecoglou will seek to prise the best from what he's inherited. And if Forrest's initial reaction reflects the rest of the dressing room, Postecoglou and Celtic have a chance.

“The longer I've been in the game, I realise that you learn something from every manager you work with, both at club and international level," says the winger. "So I'm looking forward to learning from the new manager, and that's what you always need to do."

Ange Postecoglou and Celticcan work. He just needs the goodwill - from players, exes and fans - to be maintained. This really could be spectacular...

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Chris Beattie
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