How Ange Postecoglou won over Celtic fans and conquered the Scottish Premier League

Postecoglou has transformed Celtic this season, despite a difficult start.Credit:Getty Images

“We love Big Angel”, they say. “He’s been so good. He changed clubs. He makes fans feel part of it again.

Young children proudly wear Angel masks at play. Some, as well as mom and dad, drape themselves in flags bearing his likeness and his “We never stop” brand image. Others wear replicas of the black wool knitwear he chooses to wear over his game day shirt and tie.

Moments after his side lifted the Scottish Premier’s Trophy after a 6-0 demolition of Motherwell on Saturday night (AEST) – their sixth and most important top-flight crown on three continents – an emotional Postecoglou dropped everything.

“It’s quite difficult for me to explain to people but when you grow up on the other side of the world, that’s what you want,” the 56-year-old said on the sidelines of the crowded Celtic Park, where 60,000 fans were still there almost an hour after the final whistle.

“I’m passionate about football, I love it, but I happen to live in a country where they don’t share that. They’re passionate about other sports, but I’ve wanted it all my life to adult, my young life.

“As soon as I got here I tried to immerse myself in it, that’s what I want to be a part of. It didn’t disappoint.

Postecoglou is the first Australian to coach, let alone win a title, at a major European club. And the importance is not lost on him. While Celtic have now won 10 of the last 11 Scottish Premiership titles, they finished last season 25 points behind local rivals Rangers and the club was thrown into chaos.

He was mocked as “Ange Postecog-who?” when his shock appointment was leaked to the Scottish media. When the club dropped 11 points in their first seven league games, former Scotland striker Kris Boyd said he had no authority, no backing, no backing from the board and virtually no chance of success.

“Postecoglou might as well resign and return to Australia,” he wrote in The Scottish Sun.

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But now, after a 31-game unbeaten streak, he is king of his castle, manager of the year and top dog in Paradise, the home of the 134-year-old club. This feat puts him on top with a handful of Australian sporting achievements on the world stage.

However, it is the way he has transformed the club, winning over its players, its hundreds of thousands of fans and its fiercest critics that elevates its impact beyond a list of comparative achievements in Europe of great figures in the Australian football, such as Tim Cahill at Everton, Craig Johnston at Liverpool, Harry Kewell (Leeds and Liverpool) and Mark Viduka at Celtic and Leeds.

It has become a cultural phenomenon. Diehard fan and rocker Rod Stewart showed up unannounced at his house and gave him a hug. Snoop Dogg wants to party with him.

Mark Palmer, sports journalist for Scottish weathersaid that while winning a prime minister’s job is always a team effort, he wondered if there had ever been a better argument to say that none of this would have been possible without one man .

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“Perhaps, in the whole history of Celtic, has one individual ever had a more colossal impact faster than Postecoglou this season?” He asked.

“Postecoglou has given Celtic style and substance while bringing order and strategy to the club’s previously haphazard approach to recruitment. Moreover, he healed and rekindled a relationship with supporters that had fractured so badly.

James Forrest, a Celtic fan whose regular blog posts have surfed the emotional tide of the club’s ups and downs in recent years, said the magnitude of what Postecoglou has achieved in a single season is ” extraordinary”, even if most fans simply believe that he has put the club in its rightful place.

“He is clearly a man, a manager, of substance and had he taken over Celtic in better times, on better terms, there is no doubt he would have been a great achievement,” he said. he declares.

“The world may have seen his accomplishments and just didn’t understand the full range of his talents and skills…in a way it was perfect that he inherited a mess, took over a team that didn’t need to be fixed but transformed. A club that needed a revolution.

Fellow Australian Tom Rogic, who grew up playing at Canberra before spending the last decade at Celtic as an attacking midfielder, bid farewell to the club on Saturday. His career languished before Postecoglou arrived last year. This season he has made the Scottish Professional Footballers’ Association Team of the Year. The pair shared a warm embrace, with Rogic moved to tears by the crowd’s applause after being substituted in the second.

“I couldn’t contain my emotion, it was hard. It’s a special club, it’s been a huge part of my life,” he said. “On the back of last season, it’s huge. It’s a special season to go out.

Rogic says he’s always believed in Postecoglou and says it’s “nice to see that people on this side of the world are starting to take notice.”

“He did a hell of a job.”

Goalkeeper Joe Hart, who was capped 75 times for England and an English Premier League star with Manchester City for nearly a decade, says at 35 he feels like “a young boy who trains every day” under Postecoglou. “He made an old donkey like me feel young again,” he said this week.

Postecoglou shared a hug with wife Georgia and young sons Max and Alexi before an emotional lap of honor from Celtic Park after the match. He jokingly lamented that his boys speak with an American accent after a few years at an international school in Japan.

Postecoglou with his wife Georgia and children Max and Alexi.

Postecoglou with his wife Georgia and children Max and Alexi.Credit:Getty Images

Sustained success will likely mean it won’t be long before they speak with a Glasgow boss. A contract extension is mooted and the Champions League – the ultimate club football challenge awaits.

Introduced in the crowded stadium at Men at Work’s Downstairs for the presentation, the man of the moment left the crowd with goosebumps after an emotional acceptance speech. He paused for a moment to regain his composure as fans chanted his name.

“I have a group of players who have been amazing, Scottish champions and well deserved,” he said, before describing Celtic fans as “the best on the planet”.

“You kissed me, you kissed our family, you kissed this sweater, and I want everyone to enjoy today, enjoy this summer, and we’ll come back bigger, better because we don’t let’s never stop.”

Decades of hard work paid off almost overnight for this Aussie. And it’s easy to feel like it’s just getting started.

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James C. Tibbs