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‘HARDEST YEAR I’VE EVER HAD,’ REVEALS POSTECOGLOU

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VIRTUAL unknown Ange Postecoglou was appointed Celtic manager EXACTLY a year ago today.

The Athens-born coach may have been the former World Cup boss of Australia and won titles Down Under and in Japan, but not a lot was known of his qualities in European football.

Twelve months later, we all know the name Ange Postecoglou after his spectacular debut campaign at the Hoops that brought the title back to Parkhead with a League Cup thrown in for good measure.

The achievements were made all the more remarkable when you take into consideration what the Greek-Australian gaffer inherited from the wreckage of the previous term that saw Celtic limp in TWENTY-FIVE points adrift of Rangers in their failed attempt to win a historic tenth successive crown.

CELTIC VIEWS…Ange Postecoglou, with the Premiership title and the Premier Sports League Cup for company, speaks to Sky Sports.

The team completed a miserable season without a trophy for the first time in 11 years and Neil Lennon departed in February to kick-start a three-month search for his successor. Once it was clear Eddie Howe would not be moving to Scotland, the hierarchy switched their attention elsewhere.

There were obvious obstacles to be overcome right at the start and Postecoglou saw his patched-up team knocked out f the Champions League at the opening qualifier while losing three of their first six Premiership outings.

The title win came after a 1-1 draw with Dundee United at Tannadice on Wednesday May 11 and the manager reflected: “I’ve had a lot of success, but this is definitely the hardest challenge and the hardest year I’ve ever had.

“I did an interview after the game and I couldn’t put into words exactly what was the strongest emotion.

“I think looking back now and the way we finished off in the last game, I think there was a part of me that said: ‘No, I don’t want this to be the full stop’.

“This season was about building the first foundation of a team that I hope will be competing and be successful in the Premiership for the next few years.

THUMB’S UP…Ange Postecoglou celebrates the title win at Tannadice.

“My role is to make us better next year, we NEED to be better.

“It’s the same in the Champions League, our role is to get there and make an impact.

“It’s not just about making an impact next year, it’s about building a team that will continually make an impact and that takes time.

“We’ve had a process, we’ve had success in the transfer market without a massive spend. That’s the club we are and that’s the area I want us to continue to grow in and that’s what we’ll do.”

Looking back to July and the 2-1 loss to Hearts at Tynecastle in the league opener, Postecoglou, speaking to Sky Sports, continued: “For me, it was almost a logical start because of the turmoil we were in at that time.

“By the time that first game came around we had already been knocked out of the Champions League and people could see the kind of line-ups we were putting out were just kind of put together.

“Even that first game, Carl Starfelt arrived on the Friday, trained with the team and played Saturday. Kyogo Furuhashi met us at the hotel that day.

“I knew people, particularly from the outside, would make their instant observations of ‘we were right, this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing’.

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON…Ange Postecoglou offers instructions from the touchline.

“More important to me was what the players saw and that’s when I feel, without any arrogance, I’m at my best.

“I really feel a certainty in that space, I tell everyone that if you stick to this process then the outcome you will see will be beneficial to all.

“We’ll get there and through this process I will support you.

“At the same time I knew that at this football club I wasn’t going to get a year to do it, I was absolutely clear about that.”

Reflecting on the 1-0 loss at Ibrox at the end of August, Postecoglou added: “My personal view, and I made it after that game, was that we’re not going to be in a race with them, we’re got to be in a race with ourselves.

“I think that’s going to work better because I thought they’re going to get a bit of a break on us here, they’re going to be a few points ahead and people will say it’s over.

“From pretty much that point on I didn’t mention any another team whether it be Rangers or any team, it’s about us. Let’s just do our job.”

SILVER SMILES…a grinning Ange Postecoglou holds aloft the Premiership trophy.

Celtic, of course, overwhelmed Rangers 3-0 in February and the manager added: “That created a massive shift for us in terms of going forward.

“I think if we’d got beat that night and Rangers had outplayed us you’re going: ‘The gap is four points, we’ve got to play them twice and we’ve still got to convince people that we’re capable of knocking them off’.

“The manner of how everything happened that night, I just thought: ‘Well okay, now my job is to make sure we stay on course’.

“I think the players and the staff got a real sense of belief out of that game.”

* ‘Postecoglou: We Never Stop’ on Sky Sports Football on Thursday June 16 at 6pm.

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Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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