A Look Back at the Best Celtic Managers of the 21st Century

Celtic was shaken to the core on 6th June when their manager Ange Postecoglou was tempted south of the border to be appointed as the new manager of Tottenham Hotspur. When the Australian was handed the reins at Parkhead two years ago, his appointment was seen as underwhelming to many. The 57-year-old had only managed in the Australian A-League and Japanese J-League however, he was suddenly being handed the keys to one of the most impressive football clubs in World football.

Celtic v Aberdeen – Ange Postecoglou celebrates with the league trophy after the cinch Premiership match at Celtic Park, Saturday May 27, 2023. Photo Andrew Milligan

But boy how Postecoglou has turned his critics into admirers over the last 24 months. When he first took charge of the Bhoys, Celtic were reeling after finishing second behind theRangers and missing out on the chance of winning ten Scottish Premiership titles in a row. They finished a whopping 25 points behind their greatest rivals in the league prior to his arrival but somehow, the Australian tactician managed to overthrow the Ibrox side, and in some style.

Ange Postecoglou, Manager of Celtic lifts the Scottish Cup trophy after the team’s victory during the Scottish Cup Final between Celtic and Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Hampden on June 03, 2023 (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

In his first campaign in charge, he led Celtic back to the summit of Scottish football, finishing four points above theRangers to claim their tenth title in eleven years, as well as winning the Scottish League Cup. Then this season, he successfully managed to retain the Premiership and extended the gap between his side and the rest of the division. And if that wasn’t enough, he added another League Cup crown and the Scottish Cup, to his impressive haul of trophies, completing a famous treble, an eighth in total for Celtic, setting a new World record.

As such, it’s no surprise that the lure of the Premier League and Spurs, one of England’s biggest clubs, would come calling. However, following an embarrassing campaign in North London and the impending departure of star man Harry Kane, the Tottenham Hotspur hot seat is seen somewhat as a poisoned chalice at the moment. Reputable online betting sites in Canada have given the club a 40/1 (+4000) at winning the Premier League next term, and ‘Big Ange’ will have his work cut out throughout his first few months in his new job.

Despite that, Postecoglou will go down in history as one of Celtic’s greatest-ever managers, and here are three others who have etched their names into the history books alongside the Australian since the turn of the century.

Martin O’Neill

SEVILLE – MAY 21: A dejected Celtic manager Martin O’Neill after the UEFA Cup Final match between Celtic and FC Porto held on May 21, 2003 at the Estadio Olimpico in Seville, Spain. FC Porto won the match and trophy 3-2 after extra-time. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

In 2000, Celtic hired Martin O’Neill as manager, and he held the position through 2005. He won three Scottish Premier League championships, three Scottish Cups, the league cup, and advanced to the 2003 UEFA Cup Final while leading the club. In addition to depending on Henrik Larsson’s goal-scoring abilities, O’Neill’s Celtic were renowned for their offensive style of play, which emphasised providing crosses from the sides.

Additionally, he signed a number of excellent players, like Chris Sutton and John Hartson, who went on to play important roles for the team. But what distinguished O’Neill from his peers was his capacity to harness crowd fervor and direct it toward the team’s success on the field. Celtic supporters will always hold a special place in their hearts for the team he crafted, which was not only talented but also strong and full of character.

Neil Lennon

After Tony Mowbray left as Celtic’s manager in 2010 after an unimpressive nine months, former midfielder and captain Neil Lennon was given the job on a permanent basis after an interim stint in charge. As soon as he took over, the team’s fortunes swiftly improved. He led the team to three straight league championships after winning the Scottish Cup in his first season in command.

Celtic was able to control possession and counter-attack quickly thanks to Lennon’s defensively sound tactical approach. He brought in several important players for the team, including Virgil van Dijk and Victor Wanyama, who went on to achieve stardom at Celtic and later in their English careers. Because of his love for the team and inspiring leadership style, Lennon became a fan favorite. His accomplishments, including the memorable Champions League victory over Barcelona under the lights at Celtic Park, will never be forgotten.

Brendan Rodgers

In his debut season as manager of Celtic, Brendan Rodgers had immediate success, leading the team to an Invincible domestic Treble. His tactical approach relied on an offensive game based on possession, with an emphasis on fluid movement and position switching, similar to the style of play that took Liverpool to the brink of a first Premier League crown in almost 30 years back in 2014. He managed to successfully blood talented youngsters such as Kieran Tierney into the first team, as well as develop of some of the most sought-after players in Europe, like French striker Moussa Dembele.

The Northern Irishman forever changed the Scottish game as he guided the team to a historic “double Treble” in the 2016–17 and 2017–18 campaigns. During his tenure in charge, his tactical acumen, man-management abilities, and emphasis on young development were all clearly on exhibit. Before moving on to Leicester City, he also guided the team back to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

Rodgers has recently been dismissed from the King Power Stadium and many bookmakers feel that a Rodgers reunion could be on the cards at Parkhead in the not-so-distant future as Celtic look set to bring back the Irishman to the club.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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