ANGE POSTECOGLOU has revealed his sympathy for Giovanni van Bronckhorst after his former Rangers adversary was sacked in November.
The Celtic manager insisted the Dutchman came so close to having a statue erected in his honour outside Ibrox stadium last season.
Postecoglou, who is preparing to take on Van Bronckhorst’s successor Michael Beale in the Viaplay League Cup Final at Hampden on Sunday, expressed mutual respect for the axed gaffer who had been on the brink of legendary status at the Hoops’ old foes.
The 57-year-old Greek-Australian gaffer said: “Michael has changed the way they play, gone back to a system and a style that probably suited the players who were there before.
BEST OF ENEMIES…Ange Postecoglou and Giovanni van Bronckhorst engage after a game at Parkhead.
“It’s been an easy transition for him and I think his players took a little bit of comfort from that.
“To be fair to Gio, he was a whisker away from having an historic year.
“He won a trophy, finished second in the league and got to the Final of the Europa League. You change a couple of those things and they’re building statues to that guy. It’s a fine line.
“They were a very good side last year, too. And they continue that this year.
“Whenever you change manager, particularly mid-season, it’s hard.
“But with Michael’s familiarity with the club and the players themselves, they got a bit of comfort and, although it was change, it was change that they knew and would suit them.
“They’re playing with more belief and you can see that in the consistency of the results.”
TOUCHLINE RIVALS…Ange Postecoglou and Giovanni van Bronckhorst at Hampden last April when Rangers won 2-1 in the Scottish Cup semi-final.
Asked if the 2-1 Scottish Cup semi-final extra-time loss to Van Bronckhorst’s team in April last year would have any impact on the forthcoming grand finale, Postecoglou, speaking at the Hampden media conference, answered: “It depends how you want to embrace it.
“Irrespective, I know that come Monday we’ll have dealt with whatever we need to deal with, in a positive sense or a negative sense, and focus on the next one.
“That’s been really important to us as a group. When we lost the semi-final last year, it didn’t derail our determination to be champions. We still had some work to do to at that point.
“But at the same time we understand that domestically there are three trophies on offer and if you can get to a Final that gives you a chance to win one – and we want to win it because there are no guarantees you’ll be in it next year.
“So, our focus is on preparing and being ready for it and trying to be really strong on the day.”