Graham Cummins: Celtic have it over Rangers but need to do better in Europe

Ange Postecoglou is hugely popular with the Celtic faithful but could be tempted to move away if he continues to prove successful
Graham Cummins: Celtic have it over Rangers but need to do better in Europe

Celtic fans in full voice as Rangers' Alfredo Morelos runs past at Celtic Park. Picture: Steve Welsh/PA Wire.

IN a short time, Ange Postecoglou has managed to capture the hearts of Celtic supporters but if the Hoops were to do well in Europe I expect the Australian’s loyalty to the club to be tested.

Postecoglou is adored by Celtic fans, and it seems that admiration is reciprocated by the Hoops boss. Yet, I imagine that Postecoglou has ambition to further his managerial career.

Such has been his impact during his time in Scotland, that it is now a case of when not if, an opportunity for Postecoglou to manage in England arises. He has managed to take a club that was on a downward slope and transform Celtic into a successful exciting team to support. Even non-Celtic fans would enjoy watching the Hoops such is their style of football.

Unfortunately for Celtic, success can bring unwanted attention. The wounds are still fresh from Brendan Rodgers' departure in 2019 when the Northern Irishman decided to abandon Celtic’s pursuit of a historic 10-in-a-row. Postecogolou has similarities to Rodgers in that he took the club when the team were on the decline and transformed Celtic. 

However, both Postecogolu and Rodgers cannot claim to have been successful with the Hoops in European campaigns, but if the former can get things right with Celtic in the Champions League then it is only a matter of time before clubs are looking to steal the Australian away from Glasgow.

I get the impression that Postecogolu is genuine when he pumps his chest to the fans. 

So many times we see managers and players kiss the badge on their shirt only to be doing the same thing with a different jersey months later. 

I do believe Postecogolu loves the club. 

Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou is introduced to Adrian Spillane and his Kerry colleagues at Parkhead before the Old Firm win.
Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou is introduced to Adrian Spillane and his Kerry colleagues at Parkhead before the Old Firm win.

But when an offer comes to manage in the best league in the world and to be rewarded financially for doing so, love goes out the window in football. It doesn’t matter how dedicated he is to the club, there will come a time when he, like Rodgers (who was a self-confessed Celtic supporter), realises there isn’t much more he can achieve with Celtic and has to move on if he wants to challenge himself further.

Rodgers' main fault in Europe with Celtic was his stubbornness to sacrifice his footballing philosophy. He was of the mindset that his team would play in a certain way no matter who they were up against. The same could be argued that Postecogolou is falling into the same trap when it comes to Celtic competing in Europe.

Domestically, the Hoops are head and shoulders above every team in the division including Rangers. Yet when it comes to Europe, it’s the Gers that negotiate their way to the latter stages, not Celtic. 

I admire Postecogolou for the belief he has in his own methods and also the trust he has in his players to carry them out but there are games when you do have to put your pride to the side and play football the ‘ugly’ way. 

Celtic's Liel Abada scores their side's third goal against Rangers. Picture: Steve Welsh/PA Wire.
Celtic's Liel Abada scores their side's third goal against Rangers. Picture: Steve Welsh/PA Wire.

It’s what Rangers do well in Europe because they know their limitations and cannot approach a game against Napoli or Ajax like they would against teams like Hearts or Aberdeen.

Joe Hart has been an excellent signing. The experienced keeper has instilled a calmness in Celtic’s defence and those in front of him trust the former England international. However, he is still the keeper that Pep Guardiola famously let go because he deemed Hart not good enough to play out from the back. 

Having watched Hart on numerous occasions this season, I wouldn’t disagree with Guardiola’s opinion of his former keeper. Hart will get away with it in Scotland because opposition players are tired. Opponents are chasing the ball for the majority of 90 minutes, but in Europe, it is Celtic’s players that are chasing shadows.

MISTAKES

When you are tired you make mistakes, meaning that because Celtic are going to be doing a lot more running in European games, they are more likely to make an error trying to play out. 

European teams will set traps and encourage Celtic to play out from the back because they will know that the Hoops don’t pass the ball quick enough therefore they will provide an opportunity for opposition teams to nick the ball.

Of course, if Celtic do fail in Europe at least it will keep Postecogolu off the radar of clubs in England for the time being. However, it is inevitable he will manage in England one day.

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