Ange Postecoglou justified herself irritated by Celtic’s “too easy” claim

When not loosely linked to every vacancy in the Premier League – which is where around three jobs are being assessed a week these days – it’s a talking point at press conferences across the country. To a certain extent this is simply part of the Celtic manager’s territory. As the figurehead of the best team in the country, you might even pop up in conversation.

And while it’s a source of anger for fans to see their beloved boss working with the English club next to have someone sacked, it’s often because Postecoglou is no longer valued dearly by bookmakers. Anyhow, his constant involvement in these discussions is a testament to the work being done in Glasgow, but lately he seems to have felt that there have been attempts to underestimate that work.

Well, I don’t think Postecoglou is the kind of character that Michael Beale — or anyone — keeps up all night by claiming he’s a “lucky guy,” but he does make the one here and there anyway or other indication that it didn’t fit very well. And then there was Hibs manager Lee Johnson, who pondered when it was becoming “too easy” for the Greek-Australian to thrash most homegrown opponents.

Celtic have won 28 of their last 29 Premiership games and have not lost a home game since Neil Lennon’s final days in January 2021. They are currently aiming for a second consecutive Premiership title and are also favorites to win the Scottish Cup, completing another clean winners’ trophy.

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I wasn’t privy to the conversation that led to Johnson mentioning Postecoglou, but he later insisted he hadn’t meant it to be disrespectful to his counterpart. That came after a bit of backlash from the Celtic manager, who said the use of words like ‘happy’ and ‘easy’ to describe his job was no coincidence.

“Every manager is allowed to use their platform as they want and say what they want,” said Postecoglou. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the words ‘lucky’ and ‘easy’ are used. These are not words I would use to describe every manager. If you are in this job, you know at all costs that it is not easy.

“If people think I’ll come in here for lunch, spend a few hours, have a cappuccino and then go home to the family, they’re kidding themselves. I think you know this, but the use of those words is probably intentional. That’s fine. If people believe that, they’re allowed to do that. What I do know is that nothing comes easy for us in this building.”

It’s been a robust defense from his players, staff and himself. In any context, I think we’d all have our backs if you suspect you haven’t made a serious change, when demonstrably they haven’t. I don’t think that’s what Johnson meant, mind you, given his further comments on the money gap between Glasgow’s Big Two and the rest.

Of course there is talk of leveling the playing fields of Scottish football, although it’s hard to resist the idea that the ship sailed a long time ago. But as for Postecoglou playing the cinch on the lowest difficulty, you wouldn’t be surprised if he feels there’s a touch of hypocrisy to all of this.

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Remember June 2021 and its dramatic arrival from Yokohama F. Marinos. While there’s a misconception that everyone and everyone predicted immediate, grisly doom for the new man, there have been more than a few unflattering judgments, with one ex-player suggesting Postecoglou would be sacked by Christmas, all before he did ‘d had a chance to manage even a single Premiership game. I dare say more than a few tweets with his name on them have been quietly deleted since then.

At the time, however, few rival fans expressed their dismay at the failure of negotiations with Eddie Howe and it was common knowledge that the man, whom Celtic fans would now trade for anyone in the world, was not the club’s first choice . It didn’t necessarily feel like the odds were against him in the league’s two-horse race – Celtic had key player departures, upheaval in boardrooms and a Rangers side fresh from an unbeaten season, and all of that at the same time.

In that sense, can you really scold Postecoglou for thinking: ‘Wait a minute, not long ago they said I’d be gone by Christmas, now it seems it’s all too easy?’

Yes, Celtic’s resources are plentiful and he’s been well supported, but on a personal level he would be justified in believing that this one doesn’t go either way. When Celtic lost three of their first six league games under his leadership there was little, if any, talk of spending. Throwing money at a problem isn’t necessarily a guarantee of success either – just ask Graham Potter and Chelsea.

Celtic have always had access to greater riches but they haven’t always maximized it like Postecoglou is currently doing. Transfer missteps have become rare, deals are impressively efficient and he has launched a highly successful venture into the Asian market. On the pitch, his team possesses an ironclad winning mentality that simply refuses to harbor even the slightest complacency, even when they are clinching win after win.

They’ve been so consistent that Rangers could very well finish the season close to 100 points but still reflect on it with nothing but deep disappointment. It’s an incredibly high bar in a city where second comes last, and it’s entirely understandable that he won’t downplay his efforts, whether intentional or not, and especially how it all started for him.

And will he finally find pleasure in new pastures? In all honesty, there’s no point in predicting what might or might not be in the pipeline for sustained success as a manager. Just as Celtic are at the top of the Scottish football food chain, they will be conscious of their place in the wider hierarchy.

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Anyone could make Postecoglou tomorrow an offer they couldn’t refuse and that would be it – a football fact of life that applies to 99 per cent of managers and is therefore not worth bothering about.

In the here and now, Postecoglou’s ultimate goal is to make Celtic competitive in Europe and he will be far from happy with how his two campaigns have gone on that front. As Lee Johnson himself cautioned, breaking up the continent will be a considerable challenge for the foreseeable future and the only way Celtic can continue to move forward is to ensure domestic business is taken care of. There was a time in the recent past that was even thought to go beyond Postecoglou, let alone being “too easy”. Ange Postecoglou justified herself irritated by Celtic’s “too easy” claim

Russell Falcon

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