JOHN HARTSON is convinced the Celtic fans will not hit the boos as Ange Postecoglou toils to turn things around at the club.
There were murmurs of unrest when the side flopped 1-0 at Livingston at the weekend to chalk up their third consecutive away Premiership loss following defeats at Tynecastle and Ibrox.
It was also the Hoops’ sixth reverse in only seven matches on their travels since the Greek-Australian arrived in June as the long-term successor to Neil Lennon.
Experienced for England goalkeeper Joe Hart, named as captain in place of the injured Callum McGregor against Livi, apologised to the Celtic support after the team’s dismal display on the dreaded artificial playing surface at West Lothian where the team has now lost twice and drawn three of their last five visits.
MAN IN THE SPOTLIGHT…Ange Postecoglou WILL get it right, insists John Hartson.
On top of that, the Parkhead men have not won a domestic away fixture since February 14 when they came back from a goal down to beat St Johnstone 2-1 with two quickfire Odsonne Edouard strikes in Perth.
Postecoglou has brought in 12 new faces in a frantic summer of transfer activity while the likes of Edouard, Kristoffer Ajer, Ryan Christie and Olivier Ntcham have been shipped out.
Former Hoops striker Hartson reckons the followers will stick with Postecoglou as he strives to sort out the mess he inherited.
The Welshman said: “I don’t think the boos will come. The fans realise it’s going to take time – and the manager WILL get time.
“We want to win the league, but even if we don’t, I don’t think there will be any panic.
“The club trust Ange. He needs backing, he needs a good window in January to keep close to Rangers and to keep the pressure on.
“We can’t put him under pressure after six league games. This club lost the league by 25 points last season and there’s been huge turnover.
“It’s an entirely new team and it takes time to gel.
“Not winning on the road will concern him slightly, but I think the fans will give him time. Certainly, I don’t think there will be a 25-point gap like last season.”
IN WITH A SHOUT…John Hartson celebrates one of his 109 Celtic goals.
Hartson continued: “He’s doing a good job. Okay, the away results don’t suggest that, but you can see the football philosophy.
“Ange wants to attack, he wants to outscore the opposition, but he’ll also know we need to improve defensively.
“I think it is coming. We have seen signs of really good play. I think January will be another opportunity to add one or two more.”
Looking back to his time at Parkhead after being bought by Martin O’Neill for £6million from Coventry City in 2001 and firing in 109 goals in five years, Hartson remarked: “I remember talking to Alex McLeish a few years ago and he said he was having kittens every time they conceded a corner to us lot!
“There was myself, Chris Sutton, Bobo Balde, Stan Varga, Johan Mjallby – we had some big lads in there. And Henrik Larsson was tough.
“But there was also a mentality. You need that will to say, I’m going to win that ball, going to earn the right to play.
“This is a young Celtic side. It will come. Once Celtic strengthen defensively and get a few players back, I am sure the results will improve.
“When you are at Celtic, unfortunately, you don’t get time to settle. Every game is a big game, every game is scrutinised.
“I just think Ange has come across excellent, he will know at some stage that he will have to start winning the big games.
THREE CHEERS…Callum McGregor and Greg Taylor, out with injury at the moment, lead the applause for the Hoops fans with Ismaila Soro about to join in.
“We haven’t beaten Rangers in seven games, he is going to have to beat Rangers. He is going to have to win in Europe against the Leverkusens, against these sides.
“At the moment, we are just not quite strong enough to go and do that as a group. There have been some good performances and there have been some poor ones.
“I think you are going to get that when a new manager comes in and tries to change things around so quickly.”
The Hoops have struggled to get their strongest squad together with McGregor, Kyogo Furuhashi, Greg Taylor and James Forrest ruled out with injury for the Livi match while Mikey Johnston and Karamoko Dembele were crocked in a pre-season outing. The Scotland Under-21 international winger made a cameo appearance on Sunday.
Plus long-term crock Christopher Jullien has not played this year after undergoing surgey on an injured knee sustained with the collision with a post in the 3-0 win over Dundee United in Glasgow on December 30. It is hoped he will make his comeback next month, but even that is doubtful.
THE THINKER…Ange Postecoglou has a lot to ponder.
Hartson, speaking in a report in the Daily Record, added: “The issue is it’s big game after big game after big game. There is no respite. Ange needs a stronger squad.
“When he gets his best players back we wlll see better performances again.
“I said at the start of the season it is a transitional period. Rangers are huge favourites considering they won the league by 25 points, they have kept almost every single player from last season.
“Ange has united the crowd, he has united the dressing room in terms of where it was last season. Naturally, at some stage, as we go along, Celtic will have to prove that they are good enough to go and win the big games.
“It is really early in the season. Rangers dropped points and Celtic failed to capitalise. But I think it is going to be that type of season.
“I don’t think anybody is going to run away with it.”
*John Hartson was speaking at The John Hartson Foundation Golf Day at Turnberry. The Hartson Foundation supports various cancer charities around the UK.