Everyone in the game will tell you that’s it’s a results business, except of course the current Celtic Manager Ange Postecoglou who has repeatedly insisted that it’s actually all about the performance because if his players gets that right then the results and everything else that they want from playing for Celtic will follow as a result.
In the Champions League this season, the first time this group of players have played in club football’s premier competition, Celtic certainly produced the performances, playing their own style of football in all six group stage matches, but this time the tangible rewards were not there in terms of points and position within Group F, but that will come, maybe next time around.
Ange Postecoglou’s side while all that Champions League drama was unfolding continued to win their domestic matches – achieving 14 wins from 15 league matches in the Scottish Premiership to go into the break for the World Cup with a nine points lead at the top of the league, looking down on theRangers.
And having won the league and league cup last season, Postecoglou has real momentum at Celtic in his second season and his rebuilding of the football club from top to bottom has started to attract interest from elsewhere, the latest being the National manager of Japan after the World Cup and also the replacement for Everton manager Frank Lampard should the Merseyside club decide to sack their manager yet again.
Is Ange interested? It’s a question that worries every Celtic fan. When we have a top player, Dalglish in 1977, Nicholas in 1983, Tierney in 2019 and many others in between. Jock Stein was often linked with moves to England while dominating Scottish football and making a real name for the club as one of the main clubs in European competition for five or six years. And of course having delivered a seven trophies of the bounce, the self confessed Celtic supporter Brendan Rodgers did a moonlight flit to the East Midlands back in February 2019.
So speculation about a successful Celtic player or manager is nothing new. The difference with Ange Postecoglou is that he has his own way of looking at things. He’s back home in Australia at the moment, with his team ready to play tomorrow morning against one of the local sides in Sydney before taking on Everton at the weekend. Postecoglou will want his side to put in two top quality performances – ‘putting on a show’ is how the Celtic Support describes it.
Asked about the most recent speculation, the next manager of Japan or Everton – Ange gives the same kind of answer he’ll give if someone asks him about chasing a result.
“It’s not that I’m ignorant to this kind of stuff. These things will always happen. It’s just not the way I’m wired,” he explained to the media in Australia, as reported by Scottish Sun. “I love what I’m doing. I’m just so passionate about this club and achieving success. But I haven’t yet achieved what I want to achieve.
“Whatever role I’ve had, that’s always been my primary focus. The future will take care of itself. I’m under no illusions. I know how fickle the football world is.
“Last year people were saying I would go for very different reasons. Things can change very quickly. I’ve never worried about what will happen in the future, what’s out there or what my next step is.
“What I do is focus on something I’m passionate about and I couldn’t be happier. I don’t get distracted. I don’t think there’s any use in it. I love what I do. There’s no need to think about anything other than making this football club as successful as I can as long as I’m here.
“That can sometimes be taken out of my hands. But while I’m here, I’m just totally focused and committed to achieving something special. However long I’m here, I want to make a mark because ultimately, that’s what you’ve got left at the end of your career.
“Hopefully the places you’ve been, you can one day walk back in and be appreciated. It’s not lost on me that we were in a totally different place 12 months ago. What we’ve achieved in terms of rebuilding a team and a squad, while having success and playing the football we’re playing, it’s been exceptional. But it’s just the beginning. I know there’s more to come.”
Asked if he could have expected to have build up such a big league at the top of the league going into the World Cup break, Ange again illustrated that he’s wired differently. “Look, mate,” he said. “I don’t have expectations. The way I see it, there shouldn’t be a ceiling on anything you can do.
“We’ve had a great start to our domestic season, for sure. Our form has been excellent and performances have been strong. My main concern was that I knew this block of games was going to be pretty critical.
“There were 13 games in 42 or 43 days, including Champions League games. I knew that was going to test us and our squad. To come out the other side, irrespective of the gap, having won every one of the league games, plus the cup game, has been an extraordinary effort.
“But it goes to show you that whatever expectations I might have had, we’ve probably surpassed them. It’s better that you don’t have those things and just focus on the job at hand. It’s a great foundation.
“We’ve come through that tough period and that should give us the strength to say that, when we return, we should really be stronger because we’re not going to face as gruelling a schedule as we’ve just had.”
And amid the intense focus on the six Champions League matches, The Celtic manager agrees that his side’s league form has been overlooked somewhat. “I definitely think that. Usually the games are more spaced out, but they’ve been jammed in because of the World Cup.
“Our results in the Champions League didn’t reflect some of our performances, I feel, so we fell a bit short. When you put those results in the middle, it doesn’t look like an extraordinary run, but it’s been an unbelievable effort.
“I don’t think there are many clubs in Europe, or around the world, who’ve had the commitments we’ve had and still won every league game during that block of games. It was always going to be the toughest test of the squad.
“Is there more to come? Definitely. The guys will have grown. The likes of Matt O’Riley and Reo Hatate played in just about every game. The skipper, Callum McGregor, wasn’t even there most of the time, and for young guys to carry that responsibility and get through it will give them enormous belief they can handle anything that’s ahead.
“They can conquer anything and I do believe they will be stronger as a group.”
Celtic take on Sydney FC in the opening match of the Sydney Super Cup tomorrow morning, kick-off is at 8.45pm Celtic Park Time – it’s 7.45pm in Sydney. Here’s Ange talking about what he expects from his side tomorrow playing on his home soil.