Ange Postecoglou lost three of his first six matches in the Scottish Premiership as manager of Celtic but since the third defeat, a 1-0 loss away to Livingston in September 2021, the Australian has seen his team go on a tremendous run with just one loss, a 2-0 defeat away to St Mirren one day short of a year since David Martindale’s victory in West Lothian.
What was striking about Celtic’s return visit to Livingston in March 2022 was the manner in which the Celtic performance changed and the team seemed to be intent on making a statement as Celtic achieved their most comfortable and emphatic victory at the Tony Macaroni Arena in many years leaving Celtic fans with big smiles on their faces as if they’d just had a great evening on the favourite online casino.
And this weekend St Mirren might discover that Ange Postecoglou is no fan of lightning sticking twice as far as his side losing on the road. Since taking over at Celtic, the former Yokohama F. Marinos manager lost on his first trip to Tynecastle on the opening day of the 2021/22 season, at Ibrox, at Livingston and this season at The SMiSA Stadium, the home of St Mirren Football Club, this season.
Since those defeats Postecoglou has been back to three of the four grounds and he completes the set this Sunday in the noon kick-off for the Scottish Premiership match away to St Mirren, which is live on Sky Sports.
After losing to Hearts, Celtic returned in January 2022 and left Tynecastle with an impressive 2-1 victory as Postecoglou’s side maintained the challenge to the then league leaders theRangers who took advantage of those early away defeats to open up a comfortable six points lead over the Parkhead club.
By March 2022, Celtic had overtaken theRangers as League leaders but a trip to Livingston gave the Ibrox supporters hope because this was never a venue that Celtic enjoyed, with the plastic pitch and crafty tactics of their theRangers leaning manager. Those hopes were dashed as Celtic’s approach was markedly different and the Hoops left with a 3-1 win which, like the win at Tynecastle, seemed significant in the chase for the title.
In April 2022 Postecoglou was back at Ibrox and after the home side opened the scoring in the opening stages, goals from Tom Rogic and Cameron Carter-Vickers before the interval gave Celtic a 2-1 lead that they held onto the edge significantly closer to what seemed like an unlikely title win after the three early season defeats.
That title was subsequently confirmed with a 1-1 draw at Tannadice on a night where Celtic just needed a point to make sure of the Scottish Premiership title.
And this season Celtic has enjoyed a 100% home record in domestic football. At Hampden on Sunday afternoon the League Cup, won in December 2021 with a 2-1 win over Hibs, was retained by Ange Postecoglou with a 2-1 win over theRangers with Kyogo scoring all four goals in those two finals. In away matches the record isn’t perfect but it’s not bad either. The aforementioned defeat at St Mirren last September has been the only loss and a 2-2 draw at Ibrox at the start of January was the only draw in a season where Celtic have dropped just five points.
That draw at Ibrox clearly suited Postecoglou much better than the latest theRangers manager Mick Beale – the third already to take on Postecoglou after Steven Gerrard left and Giovanni van Bronckhorst was sacked. Postecoglou maintained his side’s nine points lead at the top of the league and that remains the position on the league table ahead of Celtic’s trip to Paisley on Sunday.
There are two Glasgow Derbies remaining but even if Mick Beale reckons he can win those games, he is still going to rely on favours elsewhere, and with free-scoring Celtic having a 26 goal difference lead it’s quite hard to imagine, even if you are the most optimistic of supporters of theRangers, that this can be overturned in just 12 games. That means Celtic will have to lose another game – that would be the third loss in quick succession – and also draw another game. And of course Beale’s side would have to win all twelve matches.
That seems a tall order but on the other hand when the Scottish Premiership was curtained in March 2020 Steve Gerrard’s theRangers side was 13 points behind Celtic but their fans subsequently latched onto it being mathematically possible to catch Celtic to try to get the league declared null and void. So logically nine points is nothing and they should be fancying their chances!
That might change however if Ange Postecoglou, true to form, returns to a venue where he lost the last time he was there to make sure that his side leaves with the three points. St Mirren might be hoping lightning does strike twice but theRangers are left praying that it does.
Ange Postecoglou sees things differently though and an emphatic Celtic victory is the most likely result as Celtic take yet another step towards the Scottish Premiership title.