Football management is not an easy gig, but there are ways that it can be made easier. Give some fossilised old reptile or no mark coach an unlimited budget and he can turn also-rans into a team that makes bigger clubs blanche.
He may even win the odd trophy.
In the modern world, more and more managers turn to the cheque book to solve every problem.
Defence leaking goals? Sign new players. Midfielders aren’t creating chances? Replace the midfielders. Strikers couldn’t score in a brothel with a Gold Amex Card? Get the Amex card off them and use it to purchase some poachers.
There is no problem in football that money can’t fix … except for one. Some managers are just bad. Some of them could have Messi and Ronaldo in their forward lines and still not know how to get a tune out of them. There is an art to this stuff.
Ange Postecoglou is a great manager. There, I’ve said it now.
I’m the guy who said the appointment was a shocker, that we were having our Pedro Caixinha moment. The little that we knew about this guy was that his record was patchy. That he hadn’t done it in a top European league.
That’s my excuse anyway, but I’ll be honest, I know it’s a stinker.
Because in fact, the proof of how good Ange was has been there all the time. It was there in the transfer policies and politics of the Australian and Japanese leagues. He has never worked with a major budget. He has never had the responsibility of signing a bunch of footballers. Ange’s forte is working with what he has, and making players better.
The evidence of that is already clear in several members of our first team squad, but at the top of the pile is Anthony Ralston, who looks head and shoulders above the player that he was.
This is in stark contrast to our previous boss, Neil Lennon, who was a chequebook coach if ever there was one. I don’t remember a single player who improved on his watch; indeed, several of them went shockingly backwards, with Ryan Christie a case in point. You only have to look at the total turnaround in his performances since Ange took over to see the difference.
That Ange can spot a player is not in dispute either; that’s a consequence of being one of those guys who actually studies teams and footballers, and doesn’t just glance at a form book and accepts it as the final word. Kyogo Furuhashi hasn’t been hidden away from the public eye for years; Ange saw what he could do within his system and he went and got him.
When you look at the improvements, right across the board, of footballers who last season looked timid and lost that you see the real impact this guy has had. This team has confidence and belief flowing through them. For a couple of them, this has been transformative.
Callum has played under four different Celtic bosses and with respect to Rodgers I think this is him at his best, in a position I’ve never really liked him in. But there, last night, he protected the defence, marshalled the midfield and commanded the whole pitch.
No less impressive is what he’s getting out of Tom Rogic, who looks transformed. The idea of fielding him and Turnbull together would have been terrifying in Lennon’s low intensity team. Now you wonder if it’s the system we should take to Ibrox.
The signs were there for people who wanted to look; Ange is one of those managers who is more than he seems on the surface. A genial, nice guy, he’s also a ruthless disciplinarian. But he’s also got a sharp tactical brain … and he makes that side of the game seem simple.
If you’ve watched Ralston’s interview from earlier in the week, you’ll have heard how Ange has instructed the players, individually, about what he expects from the roles he has them playing. The man has done more, with that simply gesture, than Lennon did in his time back at the helm. This is why Ralston looks like a better footballer; he has a clear understanding of what he has to do in every game, and the manager has filled him with the confidence to do it.
This will be the last window in which we need to sign so many players.
Ange isn’t that kind of boss. Instead, expect to see steady improvements and real quality come to the club as long as he is here. And expect the young players to get a chance and those on the fringes to get opportunities too.
Some of them, this guy is going to turn into stars for us.