ANGE POSTECOGLOU admitted he “loves” the challenge of building a team to compete at the highest level.
And he also revealed his “goal for next year” as he looked to the future.
The Celtic boss proved his relish for hard work within weeks of taking over as Neil Lennon’s successor in June 2021 when he inherited a shambles of a squad that had blundered their way through the previous campaign.
For the first time in 11 years, the team failed to produce any sort of silverware and players were queueing up at the exit to abandon Parkhead.
UP, UP AND AWAY…Kristoffer Ajer launches an air raid on Alfredo Morelos in his last season at Celtic. The Norwegian did not kick a competitive ball for Ange Postecoglou.
Loan players such as Shane Duffy (Brighton), Diego Laxalt (AC Milan), Jonjoe Kenny (Everton) and Mohamed Elyounoussi (Southampton) headed back to their parent clubs while Kristoffer Ajer, Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie made no secret of the fact they weren’t overly enamoured at the prospect of spending another year in Glasgow.
Postecoglou moved them on to Brentford, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth respectively at the same time as eyeing potential replacements in his bid to construct a team that would be a massive improvement on the one that had limped through the previous term.
In came the likes of Liel Abada, Carl Starfelt, Kyogo Furuhashi, Josip Juranovic, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Giorgos Giakoumakis and Joe Hart as the restructuring took place as the Greek-Australian gaffer hit the ground running with a verve and gusto.
Losses at Tynecastle, Ibrox and Livingston and a disappointing home draw with Dundee United in four of the first seven league games proved the team would require some time in knitting together and understanding the new manager’s philosophy and demands.
THE START OF SOMETHING GOOD…Ange Postecoglou with the newly-won League Cup in December 2021, the first of four trophies so far. Will there be a fifth this weekend?
The rebuild started to show dividends and Postecoglou said: “That’s what I do and what I enjoy doing. Everywhere I’ve been, I haven’t had the luxury of going in when things are going well.
“Usually, things need building, but I love that bit. That whole process of building a team, a culture, a style of play – I love those moments.
“Particularly when you know when not everyone can actually see what you’re trying to do and your belief is tested, everything you do is tested especially if results aren’t coming in those initial stages.
“It’s the same at European level. This year we didn’t get the results and we know that we’re far from where we need to be, but I saw seeds of growth there.
“Even against the very best there are times where you’re going ‘we can do something’. Those moments need to be more frequent if you want to make an impact at that level.”
Postecoglou has ambitions for the Hoops to become Champions League regulars and, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “It’s more than investment. There are plenty of examples where investment alone is not the answer.
“This club needs to play Champions League football on a consistent basis and being in the position where every – if all the stars align – they can make an impact at that level.
“That’s not going to happen every year, it might be every three or four.
PARADISE…Ange Postecoglou proudly parades his second Premiership title.
“Hopefully, by being in the Champions League every year, revenues would increase which gives you an opportunity to then look at a different quality of player. But you can’t just have that as your end point, it’s got to be ‘that’ because it gives you ‘this’.
“You don’t dismiss the Premiership, you don’t just say ‘we want to be champions’.
“You want to be champions to give you an opportunity to go into a space where you can be really challenged and that’s where your growth happens. If it’s just about being champions for being champions, this club’s got a long, long history of doing that.
“You’ve seen it in the past with Martin O’Neill reaching a European Final or at times getting out of the group stage, the growth comes by being consistently in there.”
Postecoglou added: “I’m sitting here just now and, hand on heart and without the bias of me being the manager, I think we’re a better side than we were 12 months ago.
“We needed to be to achieve what we have so far.
BEHIND YOU ALL THE WAY…Ange Postecoglou and the Celtic fans.
“That’s got to be the goal next year, to be sitting here saying we are a better team.
“That doesn’t mean winning the league by 30 points, it may still be a narrow margin, but your football, the way you’re playing, the development of your players has gone to another level.”
With the Premiership and the League Cup won for a second successive season, Postecoglou will now turn his attention to the one that got away when he leads his players into Saturday’s Scottish Cup Final against Inverness Caley Thistle at Hampden.
The 57-year-old mastermind will join Jock Stein, Martin O’Neill, Brendan Rodgers and Neil Lennon as Celtic managers who have claimed a treble if he is successful in his latest silverware quest.
No-one would dare bet against him.