Opinion – Postecoglou is nowhere near the right appointment for Celtic
After a damaging season for the club, Celtic look set to name Ange Postecoglou as their new manager. Calum Macaulay gives his thoughts on why the Celtic board got this wrong, and why other fans should not be content.
This past year was the most united I had seen the Celtic support in possibly all my 19 years spent on Earth. Every Celtic fan from birth ward to death bed, Kerry to Derry, agreed that Lennon, Lawwell, and every member of the Celtic board were incompetent and had to be uprooted from their positions within the club immediately. From watching a historic season crash and burn spectacularly, to having Eddie Howe and Fergal Harkin dangled in front of us for three months before losing both in the space of a few days, to now being seemingly content with the appointment of Ange Postecoglou, manager of third-placed J1 League side Yokohama F. Marinos, I am left lost for words, among many other emotions.
I am seeing lots of people lapping up this relatively unknown manager, who the board have supposedly been keeping track of for a long time – given that Neil Lennon was re-hired in the Hampden Park showers in May 2019 after ZERO other candidates were interviewed, I am not fully convinced. Those in charge of Celtic would live for the idea to be spread that they have found a “diamond in the mud”. However, unlike Gerry Cinnamon, the club do not have “a mate who’s a shaman” who can get the supporters “anything you want in no time”. Instead, we have a board who will secure the services of someone who does not have a UEFA Pro license, the likes of which taking half a year to achieve. What Celtic need for next season is a manager that players can believe in, someone to steady a somehow increasingly rocky ship. There’s no point in looking back on what could (and perhaps should) have been, but Howe was an almost perfect candidate for the job – a remarkable CV at Bournemouth, well versed in the British game an someone every player would have been familiar with. The same cannot be said of Postecoglou.
In his managerial career, Postecoglou has led South Melbourne to consecutive National Soccer League (presently the A-League) Championship titles in 1998 and 1999, while also winning the Oceania Club Championship in ’99. He would take the Brisbane Roar to the A-League Championship title in 2011 and 2012, going on a 36 game unbeaten streak across two historic campaigns. Following a spell at Melbourne Victory, Postecoglou took the Australia job ahead of the 2014 World Cup. While the Socceroos were dumped out in the group stages, they would see success the following year, winning their first AFC Asian Cup since leaving the Oceania Football Confederation in 2006. The Australian would leave the national team in late 2017 to join Yokohama F. Marinos in the J1 League and after steering the club away from relegation in his first season, Postecoglou would secure the league title in 2019.
While Postecoglou does seem to have a history of success, and without trying to downplay any of his achievements too much, Australia currently stands 11th in the AFC league rankings, with Scotland occupying the same position in the UEFA rankings. Postecoglou seems to be loved by his fellow Australians and is spoken very highly of on social media by domestic journalists – such praise is understandable after the 2015 Asian Cup win. That being said, the positive profile of Postecoglou is perhaps being talked up by the Australians, who would obviously want to see their fellow native take the leap into European football and garner more success.
Postecoglou has a daunting task ahead of him following his expected appointment. With Leicester reportedly in advanced talks with star striker Odsonne Edouard, and Kristoffer Ajer almost certainly moving on from the Glasgow club, Celtic are becoming weaker in positions that already need to be strengthened. Considering that we have known that both Edouard and Ajer would likely be moving on this summer, you would hope that the board will have earmarked some suitable replacements by now, especially ahead of the Champions League qualifiers in July. However, given Celtic’s recent history when it comes to replacing their stars, combined with the fact that we tend to play qualifiers like we’re on the Las Vegas strip, I am anything but confident.
While reports now claim that he will not be joining the backroom staff, seeing a decent chunk of the Celtic support accept Kevin Muscat’s rumoured appointment as assistant manager also left me bewildered. If either Postecoglou or Muscat had an extremely impressive CV, I would be less reserved about the latter getting this role. While he did win the double with Melbourne Victory in 2015, Muscat lasted just six months in his last managerial job, winning just two matches from 14 with Belgian first division side Sint-Truidense V.V.
Seeing some fans use the phrase “a club open to all” unironically to justify his appointment struck me as laughable, and disrespectful to the original message. “A club open to all” means that regardless of race, religion, or economic status, you have a place at Celtic Football Club. It is a welcome message to the most discriminated against and unfortunate in our society, not a quip used to justify and support an unqualified thug’s appointment in the coaching staff. Not to mention, Muscat did win a treble with Rangers in 2003 – would supporters be open to Mo Johnston as assistant manager, should Postecoglou fancy him>
I must mention that while the previous few paragraphs are somewhat scathing, I hold nothing against Ange Postecoglou. My gripe is with the incompetent Celtic board (and with the fans who are content with this anticlimactic appointment), who have likely made more phone calls to the police and fencing companies last winter regarding the protesting supporters, than they have to suitable candidates for the manager job.
After a season that saw embarrassments at the hands of Ferencvaros, three defeats to Rangers (including a 4-1 thrashing and a meek home display with no shots on target), an 8-2 aggregate loss to Sparta Prague, conceding the joint-most goals in the Europa League group stages, no trips to Hampden (excluding the 2019/20 Scottish Cup final) and finishing closer to fourth place in the league than first (amongst other things I have wiped from my memory), you would expect a slightly more inspiring appointment ahead of a much-needed rebuild. That being said, I want nothing more than for Postecoglou to prove me completely wrong – however, I will be wary if this is the case, as we were also “proven wrong” by Neil Lennon after securing the treble last season.
My final thoughts? Simple – sack the board.