ANGE POSTECOGLOU sat down with the media for the first time yesterday and addressed the key questions that Celtic fans are asking following his shock appointment as the club’s manager.
From his backroom team to wantaway players, Leigh Griffiths to signing targets and overhauling Rangers, here is what the 55-year-old had to say after his official unveiling at Celtic Park…
WILL YOU WORK WITH JOHN KENNEDY AND GAVIN STRACHAN, OR BRING IN YOUR OWN BACKROOM TEAM?
“If you look at my history, I’ve usually ended up working with people who already exist within the club. Why would I dispense with valuable knowledge or experience?
“This club has had a great deal of success in recent times, but again, I’m prepared to look wherever it may be to make sure I have the best people. That’s all I’ve ever done.
“I love to know everything and I love to control everything, but what I’ve learnt over time is that if you get the best people around you, all those kinds of things take care of themselves.
“Whoever that person may be, they may be inside the club they may be outside the club, they’ll be around if they can help us.”
WOULD YOU WELCOME CHANCE TO WORK WITH A SPORTING DIRECTOR?
“I am hands on and I want to do everything, but what I’ve learnt in my 25 years is that you can’t.
“I’m pretty good at surrounding myself with the best people, whatever area that may be.
“The one thing that hasn’t changed over the 25 years is that I still have a limited amount of time at my disposal, that hasn’t changed.
“I know the demands of this job, and I’m going to make sure I have the best people around me in all areas.
“The club’s been supportive about that, whether that’s a director of football, a sporting director, sports science, we’ll make the best decisions to support the environment that I know we need to have to be successful.
“Coming from football on that side of the world, where people don’t rate it very highly, I can tell you in terms of high performance environments we’re as good as anyone. We have to be, because our football isn’t as good.
“So, I’ll be bringing that here as well as the football element.”
SPOKEN TO WANTAWAY PLAYERS?
“No, I haven’t with the ones you are probably referring to, because they are just getting back into the country.
“We have different sort of end dates with the players, so because of that, they come in at different times.
“But I’ll certainly speak to all the players who are at the football club.
“I’ll protect the club’s interests. So, if that means players don’t want to be here, then they don’t want to be here. But I will always put the club’s interests first because that’s my responsibility.
“I think some players may have a change of heart if they see a different environment, and they might see something that motivates them to continue with the club.
“Others might feel that it’s not for them, I’m comfortable either way. But I won’t compromise the club’s interests in that.”
WILL YOU ACTIVATE EXTRA YEAR FOR LEIGH GRIFFITHS?
“We are having discussions with Leigh at the moment.
“I look at his background and he has had a fantastic career as a goalscorer. I have had a good chat to him and will continue having chats with him. But he has to embrace the direction the club is going in.
“This is not a one-way conversation. It’s not just about the player wanting to be at the club. It’s also about the club wanting the player to be in that environment.
“He has to embrace the values, the way we want to train and the way we want to be as representatives of this football club.
“If there is an alignment there, whether it’s Leigh or any other footballer, then great.”
DO YOU HAVE SIGNING TARGETS IN MIND?
“Yeah, we are working on that, we have to.
“As you have all mentioned, the clock is ticking for us. We are working hard, everyone in the club is working hard.
“We’ve got people in mind, people I think will help us. People I think will play the football that I want us to play.
“It’s not an easy environment to bring players in at the moment for a number of reasons.
“But I am confident we will do some business in the [near] future.”
CAN YOU OVERCOME GAP TO RANGERS IN FIRST SEASON? DO YOU HAVE TO?
“My brain is just not wired that way. I don’t think we’re in a race with one other team.
“I can sit here and talk about the beautiful football, but the best reference point for me is what I produce in terms of the football with the teams I’ve had.
“When I get them playing in a certain way, it ends up being successful, and that’s all I’m focused on.
“If other clubs out there do something better than me and end up ahead of us then I’ll hold my hands up, but what I know is that wherever I’ve got my teams to play the football I know I want them to play, then success follows.”
WILL YOU BE JUDGED ON CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUALIFIERS?
“I can’t control that. My priority is the Celtic supporters and how they feel about the team, and I think they’ll judge what they see, not just necessarily the result.
“If I worried about things like that, it would mean that all I have to do is win the first game and I’ve got the tick and I’m flying.
“I know you’ll say ‘well then they’ll judge you on the next game’. That sort of stuff doesn’t bother me. It’s not what’s drives me.
“I want this team playing a certain type of football that everyone talks about, and everyone will talk about this football club.
“Everything else outside of that, it doesn’t deter me from what I want to do.
“I don’t think any manager’s got time. We all know there is expectation. You can sit here and talk about building something for the long term, but I know what the expectations are and the demands of everyone involved with the football club.
“But at the same time, I think [the Celtic fans] want something special and that’s what’s driving me right now – to create a team that plays football that everyone talks about.
“If I can do that, if I can accomplish that, I believe success will follow. People will get behind it. People will understand what we’re doing.
“That’s my role, to get people to see as quickly as possible what we’re trying to do.”
IS IT REALISTIC TO EXPECT CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PROGRESS?
“Realistic is to see the team showing elements of the style of football.
“It’s not going to be perfect, it can’t be. It’s three or four weeks away, we’ve got to make changes to the team, so there’s no way.
“To be honest, whatever we deliver in that opening game, even if everything is great, I’ll still know there is more to come.
“But hopefully what the supporters will see is a team that has a real desire to play the game a certain way.
“Within that, it’s not going to be smooth, there’s going to be some bumps for sure and some real challenges.
“But I think Celtic supporters, if they see their players having a real strong desire to play this game in a way that they believe can give us a success, I think they will support that.”
WAS IT YOUR AMBITION TO MANAGE A CLUB LIKE CELTIC?
“I’ve had an ambition to manage on the other side of the world. Absolutely. Specifically Celtic? No because, I’ll be honest, I didn’t think a club like Celtic would look at me because of the things I have spoken about [perceptions of Australian/Asian football].
“I have had discussions with clubs over here who have shown some interest . There was a lack of real knowledge about who I was and what I did. It was disheartening for me.
“You have to realise ‘OK, it’s going to take an enormous leap for somebody to make that decision and look beyond what’s convenient or normal’.
“So when the approach came, it was fantastic for me. I got the opportunity to manage and coach on this side of the world but to get to do it at a club like this is fantastic.”
“It feels like four years ago [that I was approached]. I know it was only about four weeks ago when the club first made contact with me. I had some great discussions with all the people involved in the football club, including Dom. There seemed to be a bit of symmetry there.
“They were looking for somebody like me. And I was certainly eager for another opportunity. I was ready to make another move. Things just seemed to align.
“Once we got into the discussions, things went along pretty quickly.”
HAS THERE BEEN SNOBBERY ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
“That’s just life. I think people look at what’s immediately in front of you and there hasn’t been many reasons for people to look on the other side of the world.
“But I assume a club like Celtic are well aware of Japanese football as they had one of their greatest come through these doors in Shunsuke Nakamura.
“I’ve never really worried about that sort of stuff. It’s never been a driver in me to try and prove that I am worthy in some way just because I have grown up on the other side of the world.
“I understand it. I’m sure that Google got a helluva battering when my name came up with people trying to figure out who I am. But that’s okay. I totally understand it, but I think people will judge me from what I do from now on.”
HOW WILL YOU ADAPT TO SCOTTISH FOOTBALL CULTURE?
“There is no bigger cultural challenge than coaching in a country where you don’t speak the language. I did that in Japan. That was a massive challenge for me and I enjoyed it. That’s why I went.
“Every job has differences but it’s not an enormous leap. It’s still football. That’s what I’ve found. “When I went to Japan I couldn’t communicate with language. I had to figure out how I could get my message across some other way. And we still did that. The team still played the football we wanted, the players responded and we were successful.
“I don’t think there is a great deal of difference. There are just subtleties in the way people think and the way people work. But that’s Ok. That’s what I like. That’s why I have made those decisions in my career to move around a bit and challenge myself.”
PUT OFF BY SCALE OF WORK NEEDING DONE AT CELTIC?
“You only get these opportunities during difficult times. I don’t think they would have brought me across here if they had won 10 in-a-row and were flying. That’s normal.
“I see it as an opportunity. Yes, we need to do a helluva lot of work, but that’s what I do. That’s my role. That’s what I’ve done everywhere I have gone. I’ve gone in where things need changing otherwise there is no point in me coming across.
“So, it didn’t put me off. If anything, it excited me. That’s the challenge.
“If I can get this right and we have success as a football club, that’s something else I can be proud of in my career.
“I didn’t hesitate. You just think, ‘if I can get it right here, like I have everywhere else, it’s going to be special.’”