Ange Postecoglou has reached his first final. Just months after starting what everyone thought was an impossible job, he’s got us to Hampden and we’re 90 minutes away from a trophy. For a while during the summer it seemed nearly unthinkable.
And oh, how the worm has turned here. Last week even McAvennie and Charlie Nicholas were paying him fulsome tributes. Provan is holding out from giving him the due credit he deserves, but that will come. Ange’s enemies have been silenced. The doubters have been won ever. Even the media, which wanted to make him into a Ted Lasso figure are eating out of his hand.
Last night, on Radio Scotland, they fawned all over him. Have they realised that the balance of power has shifted? It’s hard to imagine Van Bronckhorst getting the slavish hero worship the hacks always reserved for Gerrard, where every conversation seemed to be between him and people who felt they were lucky just to be in the same room.
Oh how they wanted Ange to be a joke, how they wanted him to crumble. Remember those early season reports about how haggard he looked, how frustrated? They were getting ready to paint him as a man crushed under the weight of all this.
How stupid do they look now? And how about those who talked about third and fourth place finishes for us in the league? Have they seen the table? They look ridiculous, but not a one of them has manned up and apologised for the garbage they were writing and talking just two months ago. Now Ange has them all singing his praises, and he deserves to.
What’s more, it’s not just that some of these people have a new-found respect for him. They find, to their surprise, that they can’t not like him. He’s just such a decent man, and they can’t resist his charm and his wit. Even when he snaps at them they don’t get offended – they deserve what they get and so they can’t be. Many of them find they like him all the more.
They all realise what he’s building here. They all realise that it could be something that lasts a while, that he might be the most important figure in the game here before long. With nobody at Celtic likely to challenge his profile he has automatically become a huge power in the Scottish sport … they realise that Ange is a force to be reckoned with in more ways than one.
Take his answer to the idiotic question about whether he got an easy ride at the AGM.
Not only did he swat that away as the ridiculous query that it was, but he again defended the rights of the fans to have their say.
“It was people who are passionate about their football club expressing their views and ultimately leaving the room still part of the Celtic family. Nothing extraordinary. I’m a football manager, mate. My AGM and my boardrooms are the training pitch and every match day. The people in charge got some feedback the other day. I get that on a weekly basis.”
You cannot dislike a man who talks straight like that, who has the respect for the hacks to answer their questions fulsomely but won’t pretend to be impressed by that. He’s a true credit to the club with the way he handles the media … but what was most important about his comments in that answer was what he said next.
“My actions probably speak louder than any words. We are slowly building something here.”
And yesterday we took a big, big step towards that something … and everyone knows it now. Even Ange’s critics are not in denial any longer about what this represents.