ANGE POSTECOGLOU surveyed the wreckage of nine dropped points from three defeats in the opening six Premiership games of his debut season.
With masterly understatement, the Greek-Australian declared that Celtic would have to be “pretty good” for the remainder of the campaign if they hoped to put in a challenge.
Postecoglou had inherited a broken squad that had limped through the carnage of the previous miserable term without a trophy – the first time they had failed to win silverware in 11 years – while spectacularly blowing the opportunity to make history with a tenth successive title.
Not only did Neil Lennon’s men totally botch the job in pursuit of the crown, they missed out by an inexplicable and inescusable 25 points.
Skipper Scott Brown, Odsonne Edouard, Kristoffer Ajer, Ryan Christie and Olivier Ntcham were among those heading for the exit along with loan flops Shane Duffy, Jonjoe Kenny and Diego Laxalt.
SCARF ACE…Ange Postecoglou shows his colours after Celtic’s 3-0 Premiership win over Dundee United at Tannadice in December.
Dramatically, Postecoglou has guided the team through soccer’s minefield and the 3-0 win over Dundee United in the Scottish Cup quarter-final at Tannadice on Monday night was the club’s 30th unbeaten domestic encounter.
It’s way short of Brendan Rodgers’ British record of 69 without loss, but the former Australia international manager is hoping to add another to his personal sequence when they play Ross County in the east end of Glasgow this afternoon.
Speaking of Rodgers’ extraordinary run, Postecoglou said: “It gives you something to aim for.
“However, I think what’s more important is we have to continue to improve as a team. We are taking our first steps and it’s only been nine months.
“But this has given us a good platform to improve. I’m sure there are more challenges ahead and we need to tackle them in the same way we have so far.”
NET GAINS…David Turnbull is poised for his first appearance of 2022.
Postecoglou, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “I am so proud of everyone’s efforts. I don’t know which teams have been on these runs in the past, but I’d bet they were a lot more settled than we’ve been.
“You have got to add in the fact this is a brand new team that’s had some major disruptions. To put together a run like that in those circumstances is every more credit to the players.
“You kind of focus on the game by game stuff, but I was well aware after the start we had – when we lost three of the first six – that we’ve have to be pretty good from then on if we were going to challenge this year.
“Potentially, you can only lose four of five games a season if you want to be competing for a title.
“We knew we had to be very consistent and credit to the players. We haven’t done it easy.
ON A WING AND A SLAYER…Filipe Jota could be back against Ross County.
“We’ve had significant injuries and a fair few disruptions along the way. So, for the players to consistently deal with that twice weekly challenge in the league and the Cups has been outstanding.
“It’s important for us to reflect on what’s got us to this point is that we haven’t looked too far ahead.
“We haven’t worried too much about where we are, we’ve tackled each game on its merits.
“It’ll be the same against Ross County.”
David Turnbull could make an appearance for the first time this year following his hamstring problem and there are also places in the squad for Liel Abada and Filipe Jota, who missed the Tannadice match, but James Forrest has been ruled out after sustaining a knock in the Cup win.
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v Ross County this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.