CHRIS SUTTON believes Ange Postecoglou deserves lavish praise for turning around the fortunes of Celtic in such a short space of time.
The former Hoops striking great has enjoyed the flamboyant attacking force being displayed under the Greek-Australian manager that has seen the side score 18 goals in five successive wins.
St Mirren at Parkhead this afternoon are now in the line of sights of a team firing on all cylinders with the introduction of exciting talents such as Kyogo Furuhashi and Liel Abada plus the dependability of Joe Hart in goal after last season’s mishaps with the team failing to solve their No.1 problem.
But Sutton still has concerns over the Parkhead outfit as they face two massive games within three days with a Europa return in Alkmaar on Thursday and a trip across the city from a crucial and intriguing derby against Steven Gerrard’s side on Sunday where they will be without the support of their fans.
IMAGE OF A WINNER…Ange Postecoglou displays a determined look as he acknowledges the Celtic fans.
The one-time England international frontman said: “You have to admire Ange Postecoglou for having the balls to take the Celtic job and to go about it his own way.
“The only question that still remains is whether his squad have the stamina to match it.
“It’s impossible not to be impressed with the way Postecoglou has got his side firing after being so hamstrung at the start.
“It’s heavy metal football and it’s bloody exciting to watch.
“I thought it would be a miracle to get to the Europa League group stages, but he’s in with a chance after Wednesday night.
“I don’t think the tie is quite over just yet, though. Celtic are playing well, but there’s still a sense that anything can happen.
“Perhaps that’s just the way it’s going to be with this side under Postecoglou.
“There’s no doubt it’s thrilling. The manager has brought the enjoyment back to Celtic Park as the supporters are being thoroughly entertained. The place is bouncing again.
HAIR-RAISING…Kyogo Furuhashi dives in to score the first goal against AZ Alkmaar.
“Kyogo Furuhashi is getting them out of their seats, Leil Abada looks a threat, Postecoglou has got Tom Rogic playing again, while helping Ryan Christie and James Forrest get back to the levels we know they are capable of.
“The manager has given Celtic a real identity, which they were lacking for so long. The fans are fully on board while Eddie Howe is still sitting in the house and waiting for the phone to ring.”
Sutton, though, offered and word of caution and, speaking in the Daily Record, said: “Before we all go overboard, a few nagging doubts remain, though.
“I know people will say I’m just being negative, but it’s just being realistic. There’s a lot to be positive about at Celtic right now. It’s five wins in a row and a terrific result against AZ Alkmaar.
“But we also have to be honest. The scoreline could have been anything the other night. Celtic could have won 3-0. It could also have finished 4-4.
“AZ are a decent side and they played some nice stuff. They also missed a few gilt-edged chances. The way Celtic play they are going to allow teams opportunities and the concern is when they step up the level of opponent, they won’t get away with it.
“There’s still a fragility at the back and while I’ve got sympathy for Carl Starfelt being thrown right in at the deep end, he’s a Sweden international who shouldn’t be making silly mistakes.
HEAVENS ABOVE…Liel Abada celebrates his first Celtic goal against FC Midtjylland.
“I also wonder how long the squad can keep up the frantic pace. Joe Hart admitted after the game on Wednesday the brand of football is pretty tough on players.
“He wasn’t complaining and it looks like they have all bought in to it.
“It’s risk and reward. The danger of still going toe-to-toe at 2-0 in Europe is running out of steam and letting your opponents back in.
“There may be a time when being compact and not pressing so high with such intensity may benefit Celtic and it’s not like they don’t have the pace to counter.
“There’s no doubt Postecoglou’s football is edge-of-the-seat stuff and it’s impossible not to get swept up in it.
“But to play this way three times a week, it’s clear this squad needs more help in the shape of personnel.
“There’s a few more on the way and I like the sound of Josip Juranovic. In fairness, Anthony Ralston might take some shifting in the short term.
“He deserves a huge amount of credit. He’s taken some stick, but his form in recent weeks has been impressive. Yes, he’s still raw at times, but his effort and work-rate is phenomenal.
“His intervention late on against AZ was absolutely vital. Ralston has proved he’s worth his place in this squad, but the group does need bolstered to keep up this pace.”
WINNING SMILE…Anthony Ralston looks delighted after scoring against Hearts in the 6-0 romp.
Sutton added: “Postecoglou has got them up and running now, but the acid test is going to be this week. They need to go to Holland and show they can play a different kind of football.
“Are they going to go all guns blazing out there? Can they afford to?
“It was encouraging how they saw out the game in midweek, but can they do that for 90 minutes? It’s a tricky one and this is a huge week for Celtic and Postecoglou.
“They could be in the Europa League group stages and ahead of Rangers in the Premiership if it goes to plan.
“It could easily go the other way, too.
“It’s going to be absolutely fascinating at Ibrox next week to see if Celtic stick to their style and go right at Rangers. Steven Gerrard’s side haven’t looked up to much this season and it will give them a heck of a dilemma. Do they meet fire with fire or do they try to contain and hope Celtic run out of steam?
“There’s still a lot of unknowns, but something is certain.
“Celtic fans would have been fearing trips to Holland and Ibrox a few weeks ago, but now they can’t wait.
“That’s some turnaround and if they can get through these next few days unscathed then Postecoglou really will be up and running.”
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