Picture the scene as Celtic pitch the vacant position of manager’s job to one Ange Postecoglou sometime in Spring 2021 (maybe!).
“Ok Angelos, so in terms of the key objectives all you have to do is deal with the loss of our long serving captain, our best defender and our top striker of the last few seasons; you have to then assist in bringing in several new players, which in all honesty won’t improve the current squad but should at least see you tread water, hopefully until January; there may also be some turmoil behind the scenes as we appoint a new CEO, a Head of Sports Science and maybe a Director of Football as we generally try get our house in order, but more on that later; it’d probably help too if you can help us get the fans back on side after last year as if truth be told we’ve been making a bit of an arse of that; and, oh yes, we need you to make an impact in Europe and to overhaul a 25 point deficit in reclaiming the Scottish League Title. Sound good?”
Yes I’m being facetious but in all seriousness the above is a fairly close reflection of just some of the challenges that Ange has had to face – and continues to face – since accepting the manager’s job back on June 10th.
Last season’s disaster was the culmination of years of mis-management, particularly in terms of the playing squad, and if you thought the appointment of a new manager and the signing of a few new players would light up the Celtic Way in celebration once again then I’m afraid we’re in for a far bumpier journey on the redemption train than you expected.
To be clear, in my opinion we have the right man at the helm in Ange Postecoglou. An experienced, successful and inspiring leader, I think he is the perfect fit for Celtic Football Club.
He promised us fast flowing, attacking football from an early stage and with a full strength squad we’ve seen that in glimpses – particularly at home – against the likes of St Mirren, Dundee and AZ Alkmaar.
A SQUAD LIGHT ON DEPTH
Pivotal to those performances have been Japanese superstar Kyogo Furuhashi and new captain Callum McGregor whose absences through injury have been felt harder than we perhaps realised they would in recent games.
Taking perhaps the two best players from any starting XI in any football team will have a detrimental impact, but when removed from a squad as threadbare as ours then the drop in quality is staring you right in the face.
When Furuhashi is replaced by Albian Ajeti and Callum McGregor is replaced by Ismaila Sori then you know you’re going to have problems.
However, with the transfer window not swinging back open until Saturday January 1st 2022 (we play Rangers at Celtic Park the following day) Celtic will have to continue competing on all fronts with the playing personnel as it currently stands regardless of what injuries we pick up along the way.
In addition to the injured duo of Furuhashi and McGregor we also have longer term injuries to concern ourselves with in the shape of Christopher Julien, James Forrest, Greg Taylor and Karamoko Dembele.
At time of writing we’ve also yet to see debuts from new Bhoys Giorgios Giomakous and Liam Scales, with the jury still out on whether they’ll go on to challenge for a place in Ange’s starting line-up on a regular basis.
The limitations of our current squad are there for all to see, and with three consecutive away defeats in the league so far, as well as European losses to FC Midtjylland, AZ Alkmaar and Real Betis then we face real challenges if we’re to be successful once again this year.
So, what constitutes success for Celtic and Ange – at least domestically – in season 2021/22?
What expectations have been placed on the new man, and what are your expectations as a supporter?
Based on the above is it fair and realistic to expect the SPL Title to be dressed in green and white ribbons come May? Of course it’s what we all want as supporters, it’s the number one priority above all else – but is it realistic?
Should we instead look towards the Premier Sports League Cup (where we face Raith Rovers in the Quarter Finals at Celtic Park tonight) or to the Scottish Cup – a trophy we’ve won a record forty times – as acceptable signs of progress as the club look to recover from last season’s failings.
It’s the right of every football supporter of every club to get carried away with potential success and to set dizzy targets for their club should they choose to do so, and we at Celtic are no different.
Based on what I’ve seen so far this season across both sides of the Glasgow divide then – as is my right – I believe that this Celtic side under Ange do have the ability to wrestle back the title, and given a bit of luck with injuries and with some key recruitments in January then I’m optimistic that the club can achieve this.
QUESTIONS FOR ANGE
Of course the aforementioned away defeats in the league are a cause for concern and something that must be rectified very quickly should we stand any chance of success. However, in late September, and with only six league games under our belt then I think we have sufficient time to fix it. Not a lot of time, but time all the same for Ange and his coaching staff to work on those deficiencies.
Incredibly I’ve heard and seen suggestions already that Ange isn’t up to the task, that his selections should be questioned and that his stubbornness and style of football won’t bring the type of success we all want.
Whilst this is all fair game for discussion, and any football manager should be questioned throughout the course of a season, is it really fair at such an early juncture? The clocks haven’t even gone back yet! The ink is still drying on Ange’s rolling contract!
Anyone expecting instant success in the early stages of this season may need to just temper those expectations somewhat as Ange and his team work hard to resolve the deep rooted issues of last year.
Painful as it is, try and remember back to where we were last season in terms of our squad, out coaching, and in the lack of confidence our players had. Don’t spend too long in that headspace though – it makes for horrendous viewing.
In his own words Ange accepts scrutiny and criticism as part of the game. It’s the reality of what he does for a living.
What he won’t accept is anyone trying to derail the ambitions of him and his players, and his obsessive pursuit of success.
That ultimate success may happen this year, or it may have to wait until next year.
However, in my opinion it will happen. And my money’s on sooner rather than later.