Just Imagine Ange Postecoglou in The Cone of Silence

Q: Firstly in terms of an injury update, I know Stephen Welsh missed the game last weekend. Will he be available for this one?

Ange Postecoglou: “We’ll see. He had his first session with the team today, he will train again tomorrow, and we will make a decision then.”

Q: Is everyone else okay?

Reo Hatate won’t be risked on the artificial pitch at Rugby Park on Sunday, Ange Postecoglou confirmed today.

Ange Postecoglou: “Everyone got through last week fine. Reo is okay, but this game might just come too soon. We’ll probably give him another week. Just because of the plastic surface, it is probably best he does another week of training and then is available for next week.”

Q: Kilmarnock is new ground for you and a lot of these players. How much do you need to change your approach because of this?

Ange Postecoglou: “Not that much. We obviously played against Livingston last year, and from our perspective, it is just important that we play well and understand the challenges that will be presented to us. We just need to stick to our principles like we did last year against Livingston. We obviously had a strong second game there after a disappointing first one. So, no change of approach from us. We just need to be aware of the threat that they pose.”

Tony Ralston has that winning feeling on the plastic pitch at Livingston last season. Photo Steve Welsh

Q: There is obviously going to be a hectic schedule ahead, not too much at the moment when you have these weeks between games to prepare How beneficial is it to have this time during the early stages of the campaign? 

Ange Postecoglou: “Look, I said last week that it is beneficial if you use it well. If you were playing games over a short period, then you would probably improve your match sharpness. We are trying to strike a balance to make sure we are using this time as effectively as we can. Our main goal is to make sure we are improving the conditioning of players, so training is intense. We are also making sure we are working on our game model because, as you said, once the run of fixtures starts, then we are not going to have as much time on the training field.”

Q: Earlier in the week, a couple of big teams were linked with Josip Juranovic. How impressed have you been over the last year in terms of how well he has came into the team?

Ange Postecoglou: “Josip has fit in really well. He had a strong season last year, and like the rest of the group, he has came back this year wanting to better. It is our job to make sure we are improving these guys. Josip has a big year ahead of him with a World Cup to look forward to. I know he is very motivated to do well for this football club, and our role is to make sure we push these guys to be the best they can be.”

 Ange was asked about reported interest in Alex Collado from Barcelona and Bamba Dieng of Marseille and said neither player was on his radar.

Q: Some reports this week have linked you with a move for Alex Collado from Barcelona and Bamba Dieng of Marseille. I was just wondering if those are players on your radar and since they are both strikers, is the striking position one that you want to strengthen?

Ange Postecoglou: “Neither are on my radar, and as I said before, we will stay active in the market over the next couple of weeks while the transfer window is still open. There is still the possibility of moving a few guys on, and then from our perspective, it is about finding the right fit for what we need at the moment. We’ll stay active in case the right target becomes available, but at the moment, we are talking to no one, and there is no one on the horizon.”

Q: Other newspaper reports are linking John Kennedy with a move to Danish club Midtjylland. I was just wondering through talking to John if you feel he is someone that has ambitions to become a manager in his own right, and do you feel it will only be a matter of time before he takes that step?

John Hughes Funeral Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou and assistant John Kennedy attending a funeral service for former Celtic player John Hughes at Saint Mary s church in Calton, Glasgow. Picture date: Friday August 12, 2022. Photo Steve Welsh

Ange Postecoglou: “You’re best placed to ask John about that, not me. From my perspective, I don’t read the newspaper, so excuse me if I’m not up to speed with what the latest news is. He’s had a fantastic managerial journey so far in terms of gaining experience and knowledge.

“He’s worked with some fantastic managers, me aside. He’s built up his expertise through different areas of the game. He started off in the junior ranks, he’s done some scouting, and he’s tried to make sure he’s as well-rounded as he possibly can be. He’s no different to anyone else at this football club. If people identify him as someone who can help their organisation, then it’s up to the individuals to make those decisions.

“John is a really important part of what we do here, he’s an important part of my set-up. He leads a lot of the areas with respect to our football, so he’s a valuable asset to this club.”

Derek McInnes manager of Kilmarnock during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between theRangers and Kilmarnock at Ibrox on August 6, 2022 (Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images)

Q: How much are you looking forward to pitting your wits against Derek McInnes, obviously, he is experienced and tactically good. Is it good to face a new opponent?

Ange Postecoglou: Yeah, of course. Derek did a great job last season when he took over at Kilmarnock. It was pretty clear it was their ambition to get promoted, and he did that. I am looking forward to meeting him and playing against his side.

John Hughes Funeral Celtics Aaron Mooy attending a funeral service for former Celtic player John Hughes at Saint Mary s church in Calton, Glasgow. Picture date: Friday August 12, 2022. Photo: Steve Welsh

John Hughes Funeral Celtics Greg Taylor attending a funeral service for former Celtic player John Hughes at Saint Mary s church in Calton, Glasgow. Picture date: Friday August 12, 2022. Photo: Steve Welsh

Q: Obviously, you and your squad attended the funeral of John Hughes today. Was it a fitting tribute, and is it important for the players to see how much these legends have put into the club over the years?

Ange Postecoglou: “It was a fitting tribute. It was a nice service, and everyone spoke really well, particularly his younger son. It is not just about the footballer but also the person as well. That is sometimes the bit we forget.

“When they talk about him as father and grandfather, you understand it is not just the footballer you are acknowledging but also the man. He was Celtic through and through. I think it is important we have our presence there as the current group. We stand on the lofty shoulders of these legends and would not be able to have the success we have without the likes of John.”

John Hughes Funeral Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart attending a funeral service for former Celtic player John Hughes at Saint Mary s church in Calton, Glasgow. Picture date: Friday August 12, 2022. Photo: Steve Welsh

John Hughes Funeral Celtics Kyogo Furuhashi attending a funeral service for former Celtic player John Hughes at Saint Mary s church in Calton, Glasgow. Picture date: Friday August 12, 2022. Photo: Steve Welsh

John Hughes Funeral Celtics Callum McGregor attending a funeral service for former Celtic player John Hughes at Saint Mary s church in Calton, Glasgow. Picture date: Friday August 12, 2022. Photo: Steve Welsh

Q: Matt O’Riley said this is the best he has ever felt in pre-season, what changes have you seen in him, and what kind of impact are you hoping he can make this season?

Ange Postecoglou: It has benefited Matt, and it has benefited a lot of our players who last year were thrown in at different times to have a pre-season with us. To be able to work with the whole group as a collective around our football has been good.

“Matt is like the other guys, as I said before about Josip, they have come back, and they want to be better than last year, and they want to improve, and that’s exactly what I want to see. My role then is to facilitate that. As a manager, that is what you are looking for constantly, players who are hungry to be better and want to learn and want to take their football to another level.

“Matt and the rest of the boys have come with that attitude, and they’ll be the beneficiaries of it. Ultimately, hopefully, our football club will benefit with success, but for themselves, if they can get constant improvement out of their football career every year they play, then they are going to enjoy pretty decent careers. Matt’s been really good in that respect.”

Q: You talked about bulking up the squad before the end of the window if you can, is there any areas, in particular, you are looking at and how important is that squad depth going to be during a Champions League and World Cup year?

Ange Postecoglou: “Squad depth is the key for us this year in terms of our recruiting when you look at the business we did last year, we tried to build a strong foundation. Signing Cameron and Jota was the key part of the transfer policy. We felt that by making them permanent, they would improve us this year because they are going to improve.

“After that, it was about filling the gaps that I thought existed last year. I thought we got stretched as a group, and there were some areas where we were really light on in terms of players, and our strategy has been to try and strengthen the squad in those areas, and I think we have done that for the most part.

“There might be one or two areas, but I think more important for me is not just specific positions but the right fit and another player who can maybe play in a couple of positions and help us through our schedule and be a contributor at different levels. That’s kind of what we are looking for, and the main areas where there were gaps I think we have filled so far, and now it is about if the right sort of player comes along and we think is a long-term fit, then we’ll move for him.

Q: You have got so many options to choose from in your squad with only one game per week at the moment, what are the challenges for you in that and do individual moments like Liel Abada’s goal last week play into your thinking?

Ange Postecoglou: There are no challenges for me, as the challenge is for the players to continue to train every day and keep the performance levels high every time they play so that when the inevitable comes via an opportunity, then they are ready to take it.

“At the moment our training levels have been really good, they have been of a high standard and very competitive and intense because we only have one game a week and some players aren’t playing and to compensate for that they have to work hard in training. The inevitability is that they will get an opportunity.

“That opportunity could come in a Champions League game and what they have got to know is that they are prepared for that. There is no point in getting that opportunity and saying I didn’t think I was going to play, I wasn’t ready for it. The players are well aware of that, and to be honest their attitude has been first-rate in terms of making sure the training is really competitive and they are ready to go.

“We’ve organised a couple of bounce games during the week and the indicators are that everybody is ready to go and that’s all I really need to see. I know before long they will all be called upon at some point and it is up to them to perform. In terms of individual moments, they don’t really play a part in my thinking because sometimes when you focus on individual moments you disregard the collective.

“A lot of players have good individual moments on the back of other people doing hard work so you have got to factor it all in. What I look at is the performance as a whole, and within that, if players have done well through their individual work, then that is great for us. They’ll be the first to acknowledge that it only happens because of the collective work of everyone.

“I get that people are really fascinated by team selection and the eleven that starts, but I just think football is, even more, a game about the collective, and I rarely look beyond saying these are the guys I am starting with because just as important are the guys, we are going to finish within any game.

Q: You seem adept at blocking out external noise and making sure the players are not affected by it. Is that the case, and how do you go about doing that?

I’m not really sure. It is not like I walk around with a Maxwell Smart Cone of Silence on me that I can’t hear or talk to anyone else. I need to be intuitive as to what people are thinking around the place. If that is outside our organisation, what the fans think, what the media may think, other coaches or what teams may think about us, I think it is an important source of information.

“Does that affect my mindset or what I think – not really? Ultimately what is really important is the group that are before me and what we say, and the way we kind of conduct ourselves. What you find is that when there is a sort of singular focus and people then understand the real important communication channels are the ones they see and hear on a daily basis within the four walls rather than what’s outside.

“It is not like I am not aware of what others are saying and maybe think it is more a discipline to focus on what the key strategies are for us and what’s the next challenge. The next challenge for us is Kilmarnock on Sunday, and anything else is not really that important.”

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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