ANGE POSTECOGLOU might have found his personal Paradise in Scotland via Australia and Japan.

The Celtic manager could be more than happy to concentrate on continuing his phenomenal revamp at the club that was on its knees before his arrival in June.

The team had limped through the wreckage of a wretched campaign to finish an inexplicable 25 points adrift at the top of the Premiership while contributing little in the domestic Cup competitions to complete the season without a trophy for the first time in 11 years.

The team, rebuilt from top to bottom by the Greek-Australian since he joined from Yokohama F Marinos, is six points ahead at the league summit, preparing for a Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden on Sunday and have already claimed the Premier Sports League Cup with a 2-1 triumph over Hibs in December.

SCARF ACE…Ange Postecoglou celebrates a win over Dundee United at Tannadice.

To illustrate the sensational turnaround in the team’s fortunes, they had six goalscorers in the 7-0 weekend home romp against St Johnstone and each was brought to the club by Postecoglou.

Reo Hatate, Giorgos Giakoumakis, Daizen Maeda, Josip Juranovic, Liel Abada and Matt O’Riley, who claimed a double, were all earning a living in Japan, Holland, Poland, Israel and the English third-tier last season. Now they are all performing in a side that is within touching distance of Europe’s money-spinning elite competition.

Such amazing feats have not gone unnoticed elsewhere and Hoops legend Kenny Dalglish acknowledges: “The English Premier League is an attraction for managers in Scotland.

“But it’s less attractive if you’ve got a team in Scotland that is getting straight into the Champions League section.

“Everybody is different, but it is an attraction for your team to be playing in the Champions League. All right, you will get a couple of bruises because you are going to be in the fourth pot. But you are still playing in it.

“If the club has finances to get players in, managers are looking for help with that. That helps them.”

SAINTS AND WINNERS…two-goal Matt O’Riley was one of Celtic’s six scorers against St Johnstone who was signed for the club by Ange Postecoglou.

Dalglish, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “He’s at one of the biggest clubs here.

“If he’s got ambition to go to the Premier League, I don’t know. He’s certainly done brilliantly for Celtic and that’s the most important thing.

“It’s not a given, but they are obviously favourites to win the league. They’re straight into the Champions League sections.

“Where is he going to go and get a job that will give him that? He might get all he wants here.”

Postecoglou, of course, got off to the worst possible start as he kicked off his monumental rebuild when the team lost 3-2 to FC Midtjylland in the Champions League qualifier and went down to a last-gasp goal against Hearts at Tynecastle in the league opener.

Neil Lennon’s successor also sampled defeat at Ibrox and Livingston in his first six Premiership outings and not even the most optimistic Celtic fan could have forecast where they would be sitting today.

HOOPS HERO…Kenny Dalglish on the ball during his heyday at Celtic.

Dalglish said: “He was getting the sack after two weeks, he was rubbish and all the rest of it. Now he’s God’s gift. And because he’s God’s gift, people want to move him on or say: ‘Should he get a better contract?’

“Jesus, give the guy a chance to breathe. He’s done brilliantly. Everything else will follow. Whatever is going to happen will happen.

“The job he has done has raised his profile and the one who gets most benefit from that is Celtic.

“He’s done brilliantly. The club has been very patient with him as he got off to a bad start and they stood by him and supported him in going to Japan. If someone goes in and says they are going to Japan for three players, you think: What? Until you see them.

“Between the board of directors and Ange selection and ability to pick out players, it’s been great teamwork from them behind the scenes.

“They thought Eddie Howe was coming in, so to get him in and how well it’s turned out, maybe they think it was a bit of good fortune.”

HAMPDEN AMBITION…Kyogo Furuhashi is hoping to play a role in the semi-final at the weekend. 

Dalglish, who had a brief spell in charge of the Hoops in 1999/2000 after John Barnes was sacked, reckons Postecoglou’s revamp will be further boosted with the financial rewards of achieving a place at Europe’s top table if they do not stumble in the run-in.

He added: “The incentive is you get straight into the Champions League sections.

“That’s a huge uplift to what’s been happening previously. It looks like Celtic’s going to do that and I’m sure the money will be spent on players.

“But whoever wins the league, it’s a great chance to put £30million investment into the club.”

For the time being, Postecoglou will focus on the Scottish Cup encounter against Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s Ibrox side on Sunday as he plots a third successive derby victory.

A Scottish Cup Final triumph on May 21 over either of Edinburgh’s double-act of Hibs or Hearts, who play their last-four tie 24 hours earlier, would be a breathtaking grand finale to Postecoglou’s debut campaign.


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