From the opening question to the closing moments yesterday, Celtic’s fan media reps sat and watched and listened to the answers given by the two most important men at the club now, the manager Ange Postecoglou and the CEO Dominic McKay.
Both men were impressive within their own sphere. They both talk a good game. They also seem to have a very warm working relationship and I find it interesting in a number of ways. Postecoglou is very engaging and fizzes with certitude and confidence. McKay is smooth and slick.
Let me tell you what my own general impressions were of the two men in front of us.
I’ll start with the manager.
From the point of view of the cynic, someone who wonders if this appointment is a good idea and will work, I was impressed by Ange yesterday, not only in what he said but in his overall demeanour. I was pleased to hear that he’d taken a shot at a couple of the hacks. I was pleased that he is going to be in total control of choosing the coaching team and transfers.
He has not made any decisions yet. That’s good. It means he’s not prone to knee jerk reactions. It means he’s not listening to anyone else’s “advice” no matter how well-intentioned it might appear to be. He will analyse everyone, players and staff, and make his own calls. That is critical. I also liked how he answered The Celtic Star’s opening question by vowing to protect the club … that is exactly the way I want to hear a Celtic manager talk.
He had several chances to endorse the current coaching team; listen carefully to the words he used following the second question he was asked, which was about the backroom setup.
“There’s definitely going to be a change in the way we work, and the way we train and the environment … the people who are going to be in that environment are the ones I think can drive us in the direction we want to go. Will there be changes? There probably will be changes; it doesn’t necessarily mean people will be going. We might be bringing other people in. But I’ll make those decisions over the next few weeks.”
He makes it pretty clear there that he anticipates changes. He makes it clear he’ll be bringing in his own people. Kennedy and Strachan might be retained in some capacity – they call it “institutional memory – but they might not be involved in the first team, or with any of the important functions in it. This alone is encouraging.
His comments on transfers are encouraging too. He wants to have business done quickly in light of the Champions League qualifiers. Win those, of course, and we’re guaranteed European Group Stage football, a critical thing for any club our size.
He talked, too, about the club culture – he is big on that at all his clubs – and he wants the players to be involved with the fans and the charitable ethos. So this guy doesn’t need to have Celtic drummed into him. He understands this stuff instinctively, he believes in this kind of engagement and he intends to immerse himself in it as much as he can.
Fantastic, and I look forward to covering those stories as they arise.
I was intrigued by his talk on the formation; the 4-3-3 idea is tremendously exciting. I need to do a longer piece on tactics, because some things have become apparent watching the Euros and bits of last season, and this is a great change for us to make. If he gets the players to play the system – we lack them at the moment – it will be brilliant to watch.
Where will Tom Rogic fit into the system? It’s clear that he will be a big player, because Ange knows him and what he can do already. But I thought it was interesting that he won’t even give a player like this a guarantee. He made it clear that he won’t play favourites, that if someone isn’t fitting in or can’t fit in to want he wants to do that they will “fall by the wayside.”
There will be no “favourites” here, no friends of the manager guaranteed games no matter how poor the form is. This man is going to rock the boat a bit.
My own question to Ange was on the modernisation of football and on youth.
It was great to hear him talk about how, as an international coach, he looked for his “edge” in sports science and analytics. To hear him talk about these things and how he wants the very best in those areas is absolutely brilliant to hear. This is not Neil Lennon, eschewing these things because he has no real interest in them. This guy will make them cornerstones of the whole operation. The level of professionalism is about to rise across the coaching department, with a renewed focus on the tactical and technical side. No more relying on individuals pulling off moments of magic; this guy will use every modern tool at his disposal to win.
Finally, he has ideas about how he wants to see us play and he is not willing to compromise on those things. I like his self-belief and his commitment to his own vision. His optimism may not last, but I get the impression that he within his attacking philosophy there will be a Plan B and maybe even a Plan C as well. This will be a major step up from where we’ve been.
Ange does talk very well. I still have concerns, but they are less than what they were. They will be greatly reduced even further if he starts getting his team – both on and off the pitch – together soon. The vibes are a lot better than they’ve been in many, many months.
Dominic McKay was exactly what I expected having spoken to him already on the phone; he is engaging and straightforward and pretty sharp. I thought there were obvious takeaways from his words on a variety of subjects and first and foremost is this; whatever plan existed six months ago, he’s torn up and is starting from scratch with his own ideas.
He also seems want to change the football environment where we operate,
My question was on the SFA and the need to reform it and I heard much in his answer that I liked, and in particular this idea that other clubs realise that his appointment changes things. We will be watching, of course, to see how that unfolds but he does seem to understand that Celtic is not the only organisation that he has to reform.
The word “modernisation” was mentioned again, of course, and again and again. We all know that it has to be done, but he gave us some hints of how. There are areas of the club which haven’t been developed to their fullest. There are markets that haven’t been explored. The last organisation this guy was at doubled its revenue … that is an enormous success which can be laid at his door, and we all know we’ve undersold the club in America and Asia.
These are areas where he knows we can do better and must do better and I am certain that if he sets up the right systems we will do better.
This was not how I expected Celtic to look at this point. I thought by now we’d have a progressive coach in place and a structure behind him.
The thing is, all of that would have been built by Peter Lawwell and so there would have been a concern, always, that it was built on sand.
McKay has torn up the plans his predecessor put in place and so we don’t know what will replace them or where we are going next, but the vision is going to be his.
And for some reason, that is good and I am keen to see where it all goes. It is going to take longer than we imagined, but I expect that the end result will be better.
This is an exciting time … but in a different way than I anticipated.
You can watch the fans presser below.