Ange Postecoglou and the Celtic first impression that left his future captain convinced ‘from day one’


When it comes to Callum McGregor’s belief in Ange Postecoglou’s ability to make things happen at a Celtic on its knees, the Australian only needed one. There was doom, gloom, and an extra helping of doom, surrounding the club when the 56-year-old pitched up at it from Japan last June. Celtic’s on-field rehabilitation, following the spectacular collapse in their 10-in-a-row chasing season, was being measured in years as the previous season’s squad was on its way to being reduced to a rump, and a fractured support was causing a rumpus over the failure to land Eddie Howe. As a result, in contrast Postecoglou’s probable length of tenure in Scotland was being measured in months. Yet the Celtic captain – accorded that honour by the new manager – is unabashed about the moment he knew the hugely experienced, single-minded coach could produce something special with his no-comprises, no-excuses, brand of attacking football.

“It was when we first met him,” said the 28-year-old. “You could see his ideas and you could see what he was trying to do. He always spoke about wanting us to play a certain style. He wouldn’t change, and we had to adapt and get to that level very quickly. You could see it in him straight away that he was desperate to do well and he had the credentials to do well. When you get your recruitment spot on as well then that helps, because you’ve then got good players that can come in and play that style of football.

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“From pretty early on in the season, maybe the Dundee game at home [in mid-August] where we scored six and played pretty well that day, you could start to see the cogs coming together. All the way through, even when we had little dips, you could still see that the structure was there and you could still see the idea was there. It’s been pretty positive right from day one.”

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou (left) with captain Callum McGregor (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

That positivity is brimming as the club have designs on a treble. Essentially, part two of that for the Premier Sports Cup winners could come move considerably closer at Ibrox on Sunday with the derby dust-up an opportunity to double their cinch Premiership lead to six points going into the final six league games. A 31-game unbeaten domestic run – which has set-up a Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers in little over a fortnight – has been underpinned by a forward-thinking approach, and intensity to their game, that makes them a sumptuous watch when everything clicks.

McGregor doesn’t flinch in laying out just how highly he rates Postecoglou’s incarnation of the Parkhead side. The midfielder, an integral member of Brendan Rodgers 2016-17 treble winners believes that, for pure entertainment, the current Celtic outstrips any other he has played in across eight years in the senior set-up.

“Watching us in the last couple of games, the level of football we’ve played has been very, very high and certainly right up there with some of the most attractive football that we’ve played. Certainly what I’ve played at this club as well,” said the Scotland international, with Postecoglou’s men hitting 10 goals across three comprehensive victories going into the international break.

“It just leaves us in a good place, and the beauty of it is that the manager is asking us if we can get even better, keep improving our football. He’s not going to let us rest on what we’ve achieved so far. We’re going to keep pushing and keep trying to get better. He says it all the time that every game is an opportunity to get even better and show even more, so that’s exactly what he’ll keep asking us.”

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