I am resigned to this deal being done.
I am resigned to there being several major shocks either before or after it is announced in relation to his eligibility status.
I am resigned to Celtic pretending that they are not a major impediment.
I am resigned to Kennedy and Strachan remaining in the building in spite of that having zero support amongst the fans.
All of it is grimly inevitable.
I am even resigned to watching his current club show us what being run by professionals looks like, as they are refusing to let him go until they know who his replacement is going to be.
That this decision probably won’t take them three months shows you two things; first, how swiftly clubs can work if they are run right and second, how easily they believe they can replace the guy who led them to a title sandwiched between finishing twelth and finishing ninth and who currently has them third.
I bet this doesn’t hold things up for long.
There are some truly preposterous things in the papers today, from the notion that we’ve been tracking this guy “for months” because we’re impressed by his CV to the comparisons with Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa, which I presume are supposed to tip us from apathy into excitement. I am less than convinced by those comparisons as they simply don’t add up.
Before going to Leeds, Bielsa had managed both the Chilean and Argentine national teams, Lille, Espanyol, Atletico Bilbao and Marseille. To name a few. His experience at the top level is vast.
We’re learning a lot about our club at the moment and none of it will make me feel warm and cosy when I go to bed at night.
We’re learning, for example, that the board believes there is a positive way to spin taking three months to research the best managers available only to conclude that the guy we want is an obscure name from halfway around the world.
I don’t know who this is supposed to impress, or comfort, save maybe for people who have already bought their season tickets and don’t like to think they’ve been conned by the club they love.
It doesn’t matter what way you strip this down.
I refuse to take this club seriously anymore. I just can’t do it.
Neil Lennon started floundering in November.
We didn’t sack him until February.
But we had from November until now and the guy we came up with – if you believe the spinning being done from Celtic Park – is a manager whose CV is a handful of titles in obscure leagues.
Isn’t that absolutely scandalous?
Let’s take a look at this CV which has convinced the Celtic board to offer this guy a job running our club.
Let’s honest to God examine it and see what it amounts to.
In 1997, not long after Fergus had saved our club from a board of directors as incompetent as this one, Ange Postecoglou won his first senior trophy, the NSL Championship, at South Melbourne.
If you look at Wikipedia it lists two league titles that year, but the Championship and Premiership are sort of the same thing but different, as this is one of those bizarre setups which works on play-offs and stuff … you know, the way Caixinha won his Mexican title.
You can win the Premiership but lose the Championship, but you can also lose the Premiership and win the Championship.
The Premiership is like the league; the championship is the play-off game series that decides who really won it.
I mean it’s ridiculous, and to European fans absolutely barking.
So in 1997 he won the Premiership and the championship.
The year after that he won the championship, which means they didn’t top the league but won it anyway. I mean yeah, okay.
A year after that went on to his success in what’s called the Oceania Championship.
It’s like their version – no laughing – of the Champions League.
He won it in the first iteration, a round-robin tournament which lasts ten days.
In that guise, it was won four years in a row by the team from Australia.
Since the tournament was shaken up and made to resemble the Champions League in Europe, no Australian side has ever won it. That was in 1999. So at least part of what we’re basing our next appointment on is a record 20 odd years ago.
So, let’s look at his successes of more recent vintage, shall we? Because that’s the key part of this.
Let’s see what it is that so impressed our board.
In 2010, if you can call that recent, he won the newly minted A-League in Australia, once again winning the Premiership but not the Championship. For the sake of avoiding confusion, he won both the following year.
So again, ten years ago he won league titles in Australia.
This clearly is part of what impresses the Celtic bosses so much that they are ready to trust him with a multi-million pound rebuild and the future of our club.
That’s his club career in Australia, and it’s important that I highlight that because he’s not managed anywhere else except for a few months in the Greek third division and in Japan, which we’ll get to in due course.
But what I want to do now is look at the non-club part of his CV and in particular what looks, on paper, to be an extremely impressive array of titles.
He has won three Oceania Football Federation Under 17 champions with Australia between 2001-2005.
For some reason he was also running the Under 20 team for the same period and in the same timeframe won three Under 20 championships as well.
He also won the AFF Under 19 Youth Championship.
So, what exactly are these seven competitions he won at international youth level and which have the Celtic board so excited?
Well, let’s for a minute talk about demographics.
Australia is, far and away, the biggest country in Oceania.
Now, I don’t want to sound as though I’m saying that’s everything but it’s a good indicator of football strength as well.
In the European Union, the top four countries by population happen to be Germany, Spain, France and Italy.
Look at the Champions League quarter finals every year … see what I’m saying?
These countries get the most money from the TV pool but their national teams are stronger as well because they have a greater base of resources to tap into.
The UK, of course, would be second on that list completing the “Big Five” of England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain if we were still in the EU.
And this is not a coincidence; these countries have more people n them and football is the national sport.
The other countries which win World Cups, like Argentina and Brazil, also have football as the national sport and massive populations to boot.
This stuff matters, and it’s why the US has been growing in the international rankings for decades now as the country gets more and more serious about the game.
Russia, which has the biggest population in Europe, is also growing its stature as a football nation.
In Oceania, a full 59% of the population for the entire continent is in Australia.
25 million people compared to 8.5 million for the next most populous country.
Australia no longer competes in the tournaments which he won; there’s a reason why.
They’ve been made to join the Asian football federation because they are just too damned big for this level of competition.
Israel was a member of the Oceanic Federation, but they joined UEFA.
Here are the 14 national teams eligible to play in these competitions … and bear in mind, Australia had a fully established youth system for internationals … how many of the following countries do you reckon had the same or did the same or were able to compete?
These countries are; American Samoa; Cook Islands; Fiji; Kiribati; New Caledonia; New Zealand; Niue; Papua New Guinea; Samoa; Solomon Islands; Tahiti; Tonga; Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
That’s the teams he beat with the Australian national youth teams to so awesomely impress the Celtic board of directors.
So his record up to this point is a handful of Australian league titles and being able to beat those teams with an Australian international youth side.
Are these the credentials of a Celtic manager yet?
Are you suitably impressed enough yet to be really excited about the prospect of this guy?
Or, like me, do you see that and feel that we’re on the cusp of a massive mistake at a time when we absolutely cannot afford it?
Let’s move on, to his achievements as national coach of the Australian senior side.
He qualified for two World Cups.
That’s one feather in his cap.
He took over the national team in 2013, and got them to the 2014 finals.
He got them into the 2018 finals before he resigned.
So let’s look at his performance in those qualifying campaigns.
He took over during the 2014 qualifying campaign; they got to the Finals because they finished second in a qualifying group topped by Japan.
The other teams in the group were Jordan, Oman and Iraq.
In the 2014 tournament they drew Holland, Chile and Spain.
They finished last with no points, and no shame there because they were outgunned.
In the 2018 qualification rounds they finished third in their group and needed a qualifier to go through.
Again, Japan topped the group.
But it was Saudi Arabia who finished ahead of them in second place. They needed to win a qualifier against Syria to get to the Finals. They drew the first leg 1-1 and won the second 2-1 after extra time.
You starting to build a mental picture yet of a car going off a cliff?
The notable success for him as Australian national coach was winning the AFC Asian Cup.
Now, this is clearly something that impressed the Celtic directors.
Winning a trophy with a national team? Wow.
That’s a big deal, right?
But let’s look at 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
For openers, Australia were the host nation.
The 15 teams that joined them in the tournament were, as follows; Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, Iraq, China and Palestine.
Australia got drawn in a group with South Korea, Oman and Kuwait.
They finished second in that group to the Koreans, but qualified for the next round in second place.
In the Quarter Finals they got China, who they beat 2-0.
But the real moment which turned the tournament for them happened elsewhere in that round; the United Arab Emirates knocked Japan out after a 1-1 draw went to penalty kicks.
Australia would have drawn Japan, who were the holders and who had finished ahead of them in the qualifiers and for the 2014 World Cup. But they got UAE instead, and won 2-0.
They beat South Korea in the final 2-1, which is pretty impressive even as the host nation.
It’s a coup and there’s no doubt about that.
Except … the 2019 tournament was won by Qatar, managed by a former Barcelona youth coach named Félix Sánchez Bas.
So if that’s the gold star then I’m moved to wonder why we didn’t just interview him as well?
Which brings us to Japan, and Postecoglou’s most recent success.
He won the J-League with Yokohama F. Marinos in 2019.
There’s a lot of wrong information about his record there; they didn’t finish seventh or ninth in debut campaign, and I’ve read both versions of that. They finished 12th of 18 teams.
So whilst it’s impressive to go from that to winning the title the following year, if all we’re doing is considering the title win we’re not looking at the whole picture.
Last season, they finished ninth.
This season they are sitting at third after last night’s title win.
Add it all up.
A league title in Japan sandwiched between finishing twelfth and ninth.
An AFC Asian Cup, an armful of youth trophies with the Australian national team and some Aussie league titles.
In a 25-year career where his only European experience was a handful of games in the third tier of Greece.
It was sources at Celtic themselves who briefed The Sunday Mail this morning that this is a guy we’ve been tracking “for months” and that it was his CV which impressed us most.
We had all of football to choose from; guys like Cocu and Blanc and even people like Chris Wilder who did a Howe style job with a provincial club … and this is the best we could find?
Some outlets have hinted at a slightly different scenario playing out here.
That there wasn’t a global hunt but that Lawwell asked Fergal Harkin for a recommendation and he said “Yeah, there’s this guy who works for us (at the City Football Group) in Japan …”
And that’s kind of amazing to me …
There are other clubs in the City Football Group, of course, but we’re not being recommended any of their coaches.
Because at Troyes, there’s Laurent Battles who they couldn’t sell on the basis of experience. Liam Manning at SK Lommell, likewise doesn’t have the any CV to speak of. Fransico at Girona is just as underwhelming.
There is a European manager in the City Football Group who has won titles in two countries; he’s at New York right now.
They can’t recommend him.
His name is Ronny Deila.
Honestly, I’d take Ronny in two seconds if it meant that we didn’t go through this particular nightmare.
The Harkin story sounds plausible.
It sounds like a decision made under fire, panicked, out of time.
Because, really, when you strip it all back and you look at the mess we’re in right now, we’re not going to get a major candidate anymore; the incompetence of this board has made sure of that.
The best we could hope for from them on this was honesty, and they’re sticking to their story that we searched the world and this is what we came up with.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you think this is a fitting CV for the next manager of Celtic then I don’t know which club you think you’re watching.
If your argument is that Australian football and Japanese football are no more a backwater than Scottish football is then I concede the point … but Celtic has never viewed itself as a backwater club and the idea you’ve been watching a backwater club would have horrified you.
But that was before this backwater appointment was mooted.
And if we do this, that’s who we are now.