Celtic thriving as Postecoglou prepares for one of world sport’s biggest rivalries
Six consecutive wins, including a 6-0 triumph at the weekend, might just have squashed doubts that Ange Postecoglou is the man to lead Celtic back to the summit of Scottish football.
But the first real test for the Australian tactician will come on Sunday, when the Bhoys face bitter rivals Rangers in the season’s opening Old Firm clash as Postecoglou looks to mark the card of the reigning Scottish Premiership champions.
Rangers’ Ryan Kent clashes with Celtic’s Scott Brown during a combustible Old Firm derby in 2019.Credit:Getty
Tenions have already started to bubble this week. Rangers have launched an investigation after a video showed fans allegedly chanting a racist song about Celtic’s Japanese forward Kyogo Furuhashi.
Postecoglou was hired as head coach after Neil Lennon’s departure in the aftermath of Celtic’s surrender of the title last year to Steven Gerrard’s team as dreams of a record 10th title in a row were scuppered by their old adversaries.
A sceptical fan-base greeted Postecoglou’s arrival from J-League side Yokohama F Marinos with concerns over his lack of a European pedigree, but the Australian has overcome a slow start to create a team that looks ready to challenge.
Celtic showed no mercy in their demolition of 10-man St Mirren on Saturday (Sunday AEST), in a win that came off the back of a 2-0 victory over AZ Alkmaar in the first leg of their Europa League play-off two days earlier.
“I’ve said all along that we can play this kind of football, we can maintain this kind of tempo throughout the season,” Postecoglou said after the thrashing at Celtic Park.
“You just don’t know how some players may react to it, but at the moment the players are thriving.
“We’re doing an awful lot of work, the staff’s working really hard off the field on their recoveries and making sure they get everything they need in between games.
“To be fair, we’re not training a lot and I think because of that the players are still feeling good going into games.”
Known for his adherence to an attack-minded style, the former Socceroos coach has finally got his players clicking. Celtic failed to win in their first three games, including crashing out of the UEFA Champions League qualifying stages to Denmark’s Midtyjlland.
But a raft of signings, including livewire striker Furuhashi from Japanese side Vissel Kobe and former Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart, have seen a new team take shape.
Postecoglou stressed upon arrival it would take players time to adapt to his methods and he is confident his team will improve.
“You may say that I’m a little bit arrogant to say that we are going to improve after we won 6-0, but we are still at the beginning of what we are trying to build,” he said.
“There are definitely going to be challenges along the way. What happens after days like today, and the run we are on, is that players get encouragement and they want more.”
David Turnbull scored a hat-trick in the win over St Mirren and the midfielder praised the approach Postecoglou has brought to the club.
“You saw today we were relentless until the 90th minute and everything’s going well at the moment,” Turnbull said.
“It’s just about building confidence and the manager’s breeding that through the team and the new signings have settled in well.”
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