I’ve watched a whole generation’s worth of managers come and go from Celtic, each one bringing their own set of emotions, whether it’s excitement, disappointment or apathy.
My earliest solid memory of feeling part of the club was the day we beat St Mirren at Love Street to break the hearts of Hearts. Every Celtic fan has a moment when they catch the ‘bug’, whether they’re immersed in it from birth through family, socialised at school or just fall in love with the fairytale or political element of the club.
We all form that bond that makes us feel that we’re part of something bigger than just a sports club, and we all feel qualified in debating and verbalising our feelings about the situation at the club.
I can’t remember a single time when there was universal agreement on who we appointed as manager. Probably the strongest Celtic team in my lifetime was Martin O’Neill’s team in their pomp and yet I had been desperate for us to appoint Guus Hiddink.
In recent years I was 100% sure Brendan Rodgers would be a success and yet there was a sizable number of fans making a case for Roy Keane.
The one thing that’s been a constant across all our successful managers is that sense of excitement early on that comes with watching the top operators put together a team who wholly buy into their methods and philosophy.
That brings us to Ange Postecoglou!
It’s hard to talk about this season without reflecting on last season!
When Brendan Rodgers came to the club and swept all before him, regularly going to Ibrox and destroying the team across the city, I wrote an article about how that had exorcised the demons of the nineties that had left us mentally scarred even through our success of the noughties.
We seemed so far ahead of them under Brendan that no-one could have foreseen last season’s spectacular collapse.
It caused an apathy in me that I’ve never experienced as a Celtic fan!
Even during those barren years in the nineties there was a camaraderie that kept you defiant and hopeful and some exciting teams under a manager who shared our disappointment but who showed a humility that was lacking in Neil Lennon last year.
Whoever was handed the reins this year had a monumental task in rebuilding the team.
I thought Eddie Howe was the right guy for the job and was pretty despondent when his bottle crashed, but sometimes the universe works in mysterious ways and up popped this Australian legend full of confidence in himself and his ability to do a job, the size of which he was under no illusions about.
Obviously I had doubts initially but Ange has a magnetism about him that’s infectious and his philosophy about how the game should be played is exciting and rooted in a belief that fans are the lifeblood and should be entertained.
The things he’s had to deal with in this parochial little backwater must have blown his mind.
The hubris and ignorance in dismissing out of hand any footballing achievements outside of Europe. The disrespect shown to the J-League.
The constant undermining by a cowardly media terrified of reporting things as they are instead of as they want them to be.
The writing off of our title aspirations after three rounds of games, not to mention the absurd goings on behind the scenes at our own club and the litany of honest mistakes by Ibrox season ticket holding refs accountable only to a guy who has previous for sectarian bigotry.
You wouldn’t have blamed him for packing up his shit and jumping on the first plane back to Oz.
But not this guy, he has set about the job with a professionalism that we’ve sorely missed. The players and fans are now fully bought in after a few understandable teething problems and we’re starting to gel and move through the gears.
Like previously successful managers he’s recruited a core of players and improved the players he’s inherited.
The signing of Joe Hart is turning out to be a master-stroke. Not only is he making game changing saves, he’s taken up a role as one of the leaders on the park putting his huge experience to good use.
Likewise, Kyogo, who’s already been a sensation and is only going to get better. His pace, intelligence and work-rate are a joy to behold.
Jota looks like being a fans favourite with his trickery and eye for a goal and our much maligned defence has let in the joint least amount of goals along with Dundee Utd.
On top of that he has Anthony Ralston playing way above the level any of us suspected he could play at, Tom Rogic looking like the player we all know he can be and guys like Turnbull getting better every week, not to mention the imperious Calum McGregor!
He’s made an utter fool of 90% of the Scottish football pundits by clawing back four points of a six-point gap whilst navigating a string of tough away games and smashing that away day hoodoo all in one fell swoop, leaving us nicely situated going into a theoretically easier run of games leading up to January, when he has the chance to add some more reinforcements.
And what’s more he seems to have the ‘bug’! He gets us and what we’re about and not in the schmoozy badge kissing way of Brendan Rodgers who as much as I loved him as our manager, was always looking beyond Celtic to the EPL.
I’m excited about the coming seasons in the way I was when Martin O’Neil’s team started coming together and we destroyed Rangers 6-2 early.
The club has an energy and a buzz about it again and we can all sense the gnawing fears and doubts of the other lot and their compliant media.
If we add a central midfielder and full back in January along with having Forrest, Jullien and the likes of young Dembele back in contention I think the league will be ours to lose.
This team still has an awful lot of improving to do, but finally after the season from hell the fans are all on the same page again and the stars are lining up in our favour. This season has the feel of one that kids might look back on as the time when they fell in love with Celtic.
It might seem like I’m getting ahead of myself on this, but as someone who has witnessed the good the bad and the ugly of the last forty years I reserve the right to do so. This midweek was huge. It’s now completely in our hands and that’s all you can ask for!
(Well, you could ask for a credible media and a refereeing association that was based on merit and ability rather than the arbitrary decision making processes of a proven bigot, but that’s for another day.)
Let’s keep up the pressure then go and smash the mob in the next Glasgow derby and start making good memories again.
Chris Cominato is a Celtic fan, blogger and admin of The CelticBlog Facebook group.