Historic treble looms as Postecoglou’s thrilling Celtic chapter nears conclusion
Save articles for later
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
This must be strange for Celtic fans: to be on the cusp of another league title, to be so utterly enthralled by the football your team is playing and the characters within it, and to also feel a little bit shattered.
Scientists call it “anticipatory nostalgia”: the sensation of missing the present before it has even become the past. To know you have to appreciate every single second, because there aren’t many of them left. Because, sooner or later, Ange Postecoglou will be moving onto bigger and better things, leaving you with some precious memories to cherish, but also a heavy sense of melancholy, and the knowledge that you’ll probably never have it quite as good again.
Ange Postecoglou is on the cusp of a domestic treble with Celtic.Credit: Getty
The next few weeks, then, should be soaked up completely, every moment and emotion savoured as Postecoglou’s relentless Celtic round out another dominant campaign with an historic victory lap.
A win on Sunday night (AEST) away to Heart of Midlothian will wrap up a second consecutive Scottish Premiership title for Celtic, with four games left to play in the league. It would be their second trophy of the season, having already won the Scottish League Cup earlier this year, but almost certainly not their last, because they also have a Scottish Cup final to come on June 3 against second-tier outfit Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Consider that, like the league, a foregone conclusion.
Postecoglou, 57, has become a revered figure in Glasgow during the past couple of years, but completing a domestic treble would cement him as an absolute legend of the club, putting him in the esteemed company of Jock Stein, Martin O’Neill, Brendan Rodgers and Neil Lennon – the only other managers to have won three trophies in a single season with Celtic.
Ange Postecoglou has the chance to join an exclusive club of treble-winning Celtic managers.Credit: Getty
On one hand, it would be a truly remarkable feat by Postecoglou, given the circumstances in which he took the job in mid-2021, and the state of Celtic at the time. Confronted by ignorance, arrogance and condescension, every sceptic and doubter has been turned into a believer, if not an outright disciple.
“Postecoglou is an elite-level manager – without a doubt one of the best on this planet,” writes author Hamish Carton in the new book Never Stop: How Ange Postecoglou Brought the Fire Back to Celtic. “The Celtic support and the rest of Scottish football are aware of that now, as are those in the countries where he’s worked. The rest of the world is going to find out very soon.”
But on the other hand, winning the treble would not really be remarkable at all. It would simply be a case of Postecoglou doing what he does. And having done it in Australia with South Melbourne and Brisbane Roar, in Asia with the Socceroos, and in Japan with Yokohama F. Marinos, the only question was whether he could handle the pressure of life in the fishbowl that is Scottish football. In retrospect, it was a silly question.
And so thoughts turn to Postecoglou’s inevitable exit. For several months now, he has been thrown up as a candidate for almost every managerial vacancy in the English Premier League. And the stature of the clubs he has been linked with has grown in tandem with his standing in Britain – from Brighton and Leeds, to Leicester and West Ham, to Tottenham Hotspur, where incoming chief football officer Scott Munn will surely make a serious play for him and, most recently, to Chelsea, where he has been described as a “surprise” contender.
“I am [not] going to jump at anything that comes my way. I think you will be surprised how long I am here.”
It is no longer about whether the opportunity will come, but which club will be smart enough to offer it to him first, and provide him with enough backing to convince him to say yes.
If and when he moves south of the border, you can already imagine how the reaction will play out in England. Fans on social media will use laughing and crying emojis – maybe even the clown emoji, or the skull .
Incurious pundits will laugh and say they’ve never heard of him, that this must be some sort of joke, that winning trophies in Scotland’s two-team farmers’ league is no proof of his quality or ability – much like how people in Scotland also talked down his achievements in Japan and Australia because it is perceived to be a “lower level” and, therefore, not worthy of proper acknowledgement or analysis.
There are a few hints, though, that Postecoglou will be staying put – if not for the whole of next season, then at least the first half of it. The first is what Postecoglou told the Scottish press two months ago, addressing speculation about the Premier League interest after Celtic beat Rangers to win the Scottish League Cup.
“If people are talking about my future or are interested in my future, I will sit there and listen,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean I am going to jump at anything that comes my way. I am still here even though people have been getting me out the door … I think you will be surprised how long I am here. I am just consumed by what I do. That is to try to make this football club the best it can be and enjoy every minute of it.”
The second is Celtic’s recent announcement of an off-season tour of Japan, which includes a friendly against Yokohama F. Marinos, now coached by Kevin Muscat, one of the many graduates of the University of Ange. There is little chance the trip would have been booked or sanctioned if Postecoglou – who is as adored in Japan as he is Australia – had any intention of skipping it.
The third is the sense that Postecoglou has unfinished business with Celtic – not so much in Scotland, where he has won (or is about to win) all there is to win, but in Europe. Finishing top of the league will confirm another spot in next season’s UEFA Champions League group stage, and a chance to build on their performances from earlier this season, having gained plenty of admirers for their brave approach despite going winless against Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk and RB Leipzig.
The Champions League also offers Postecoglou a reputational shortcut. A single win against a high-profile opponent – let alone if Celtic could somehow manage to reach the knockout phase – would instantly put Postecoglou’s name in the mix for even bigger jobs than the ones he’s already been touted for.
What’s clear is that this chapter in the Postecoglou journey is nearing its natural conclusion, be it a matter of days, weeks or months from now. The ending will be satisfying, and a bit crushing. But there is so much more yet to come.
Watch every match of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League on Stan Sport. All the action streaming ad-free, live and on demand, with select matches in 4K UHD.
Most Viewed in Sport
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article