“I am not going to accept people suggesting that,” Ange Postecoglou

Ange Postecoglou wasn’t prepared to take media spin lumping both Scottish clubs performances in the Champions League together in order to satisfy their own agendas  or suit their own bias, maybe taking the heat of the other side of the city.

For his part the Celtic manager wanted only to discuss his own side’s showing in the Champions League, pointing out that it has been a story of missed opportunities in front of goal but not one of Celtic being out of our depth and not really belonging at this level.

Celtic have been competitive in all of the games, perhaps losing in Leipzig was the only disappointing performances but in the other three games Celtic could have ended up winning them all, such was the standard of play and the chances created but frustratingly missed.

The narrative changed though after a result in another group when Liverpool won 7-1 at Ibrox and suddenly Celtic’s scores were being added together with theRangers results to make a point that Scottish clubs don’t belong at Champions League level.

Ange Postecoglou was having none of that at yesterday’s media conference. Here’s how it went…

Q: Can we start with an injury update?

Ange Postecoglou: “Jota is still not available for tomorrow, and we are being conservative with him. We expect him to be back at training next week at some point. Liel is fine he has trained. David Turnbull picked up a bit of a knock on his ankle, and he’s out for tomorrow, Stephen Welsh picked up a knock in training, so he is also out tomorrow. Everyone else is okay.”

 David Raum with Liel Abada during the UEFA Champions League match between Celtic FC and RB Leipzig, at the Celtic Park on October 11, 2022. Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

Q: How are the players feeling after midweek we have spoken about the difference between playing Champions League football and league football – is that something that you need to manage as you are going from winning every other week domestically to the difficulty of competing in the Champions League?

Ange Postecoglou: “Not really. Our approach certainly doesn’t change between competitions. In terms of our preparation, our recoveries, or our switch from one to the other, it doesn’t really change to any great extent. The players understand our processes, and we did our review we gave them the feedback, and they understand we are now back in the league, and they are facing a good opponent at home, and we have got to be ready for it.”

Q: Just looking at the week Scottish football teams have had in Europe, I am assuming that you think it is better to be involved and lose than to not be involved at all could you outline the positives that Scottish football can take from being involved in these types of games?

(Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Ange Postecoglou: “As opposed to just not being involved at all? So do we just play a domestic competition and just ignore everything else? Look, I get your question and I understand the whole sort of living here now for 18 months I have seen the Scottish national team go from heroes to no-hopers to heroes again.

“So I understand this whole boom-bust cycle that everyone loves to get into here and the whole woe is me. We are not the only big country that struggles to get results at the Champions League level and I can only talk for my club but if anybody can tell me in the four games that we have played that we don’t deserve to be there or that we have been outplayed or that we have looked out of place then I reckon they are talking from an agenda or from a sort of bias.

 (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

“The only question I have had after each of our games has been about opportunities missed. The opportunities missed certainly prove to me that we have to improve some areas for sure, one hundred per cent, but it doesn’t say to me that somehow we don’t belong in a competition that we’ve earned the right to be in.”

Q: Can you take heart from results like Maccabi Haifa beating Juventus and Club Brugge topping their group, it shows that clubs can punch above their weight in the competition, doesn’t it?

Ange Postecoglou: “Yeah, it does. Look at those clubs historically have they always had those results? They haven’t. I will tell you. What it means is that the longer you are in this competition the more opportunities you have to grow and make an impact.

“You are not going to go in there for the first time and expect that you are going to dominate the most prestigious club competition in the world. I am only talking about our club, and I am not going to talk about other clubs as they have their own representatives to talk about them.

(Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

“From our perspective, we felt that we earned the right to be in this competition, and we felt that during this competition, we know the areas we have come up short in, and they are the areas we need to improve. At no stage do I believe or any objective observer would believe that we don’t deserve to be here or that we have looked out of place in this competition.”

Q: You can’t fast-track the Champions League process as it takes time and commitment to reach that level is that something you can put a timeframe on, or is it something that comes with playing at this stage and measuring yourself against the best?

Ange Postecoglou: “No. No other club has put a timeframe on it. It’s about being at that level and exposing yourself and having the opportunity to play at that level on a consistent basis. It means  having to qualify for it and this is the first time we have been in it for five years. We have got to qualify for it consistently as that exposes you to that level of football and every year you want to grow.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

“That’s what our objective needs to be. That’s what most clubs our size aspire to. If you take away the clubs from the big five leagues and look at the rest of the leagues then the ones who have made an impact are consistent qualifiers. If this was our fifth or sixth year of being in the competition then I would be having a different discussion with people.

“It is all about perspective and what you are trying to achieve. This is our first year back in at this level in five years, and I haven’t faced or unless people are hiding from me I haven’t faced a press conference yet where somebody has said ‘Ange you were out of your depth today, how do you explain that’? The questions I have been answering have been about opportunities missed.

“I am not going to accept people suggesting that we haven’t somehow earned our place in this competition or somehow we have let the game in this country down by the way we have gone about our approach.”

(Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Q: Looking towards Hibs, Lee Johnson has done well with them, what are your thoughts on that one, how tough will it be?

Ange Postecoglou: “It is a good challenge for us. Lee Johnson has come in and he has made a lot of changes at the club from last year. He has brought in players that will suit the kind of football that he wants to play. It is a process with all of these things.

“They have been in really good form apart from the midweek game, which I still think they played well in and the result went against them but their recent form has been good. We are at home and we expect a good challenge.

“We have been really consistent with our performances over the last 15-16 months. We have just got to make sure that we bring the right sort of energy that we know we can and tempo in the game and if we do that we know we are hard to stop.”

 (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Q: I wondered about the intensity of playing Champions League football. Since you came into the club, you have played a game every three or four days but the Champions League was so condensed. Did you feel that the intensity was more?

Ange Postecoglou: “I think what you are finding and not just with our club but most clubs is that there is a higher attrition rate with players. There is a fortnight between Champions League games and you get the opportunity to recover.

“They are high-intensity games and our physical numbers in terms of the output we had to give for that game were very high. You are playing against high-quality opposition so you have to work harder than you normally do. The fact that we have been going back-to-back doesn’t ease up for a club like us.

“Even though we have no Champions League this week we have a cup game in midweek. I think what you are finding and seeing is a rise in the number of injuries with clubs involved in this competition because ultimately we all want to try and play at the same level, with the same tempo and the same intensity, but the players will break down if you keep doing that.”

Q: How big a concern is that for you and the club and is it something you have spoken to other managers in Europe about?

Ange Postecoglou: “There wouldn’t be a manager who hasn’t spoken about it. We are at the mercy of the competitions we are involved in. From our perspective, we are a club that wants to have success and wants to compete in all the competitions.

“For us, that is three domestic competitions plus Europe, obviously, with the World Cup being in November, that has condensed it even further, which is a challenge. Most managers have spoken out about the fact that we are going to see a high attrition rate from players if we continue with these kinds of schedules.”

Q: Can I ask you how you feel that Cameron Carter Vickers is handling the on-field captaincy? He said himself he is maybe not the most vocal but he seems to bring composure and calmness to everything that he does.

Ange Postecoglou: “Absolutely. It is the reason I put him in there. When you lose somebody as influential as Callum McGregor, you are not going to fill that breach with someone who is a carbon copy of him.

“It was really important that we had some stability and I’ve already got guys like Joe Hart and players like Greg Taylor who is a quiet bloke in the dressing room and Josip Juranovic but I just felt we needed a different type of leader also.

“With Cameron, when he is out there, the lads do see him as a leader in the way he plays and the way he goes about his business. It was a balancing act in terms of what type of leadership we needed during Callum’s absence. I just felt that with Joe and a couple of others providing the vocal aspect that having Cameron in there would help us and I think he has done well.”

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds 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

1 Comment

  1. The majority of the press in this country are pathetic, with their own agendas. They are not interested in reporting clearly and honestly. They are interested only in bending the truth to suit their agenda.