The Celtic Manager’s Decision To Put On Kyogo Last Night Was Risky, Not Crazy.

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It’s been a rare old day for those who want to find fault with Ange and his decision making. When Kyogo took the field last night there was not a person inside Celtic Park who did not know what a risk that was.

And that includes Ange Postecoglou.

But Ange has not reached the place he has in football without taking risks.

Ever manager takes risks. Some are bigger risks than others. Some are reckless almost beyond comprehension.

Last night’s was not one of those. It was not, as some have termed it, crazy.

Everyone who aspires to being a top boss in football has to be a gambler to a certain extent.

You weigh the odds. You play the odds.

And in my living life I’ve never seen a Celtic team lose two strikers in a single game to almost identical injuries. It does not happen. It’s like getting hit by lightning, dusting yourself off and then getting hit by it again.

All Ange did last night was play the odds and you wouldn’t have got a bet on what happened. His only sin is that he wanted to win the game, and those who label it a dead rubber do a disservice to those who played in it and played damned well.

When Ajeti went off he had one fit striker on the bench.

It’s all well and good saying that he should have conserved Kyogo for the coming games, and I don’t disagree that it would have been the safe decision.

Another way to put it is to say it would have been the coward’s decision.

Because Ange wanted to win.

He thought he owed it to the supporters who turned out on a freezing night, and to the young players who were sweating blood on his behalf. He thought that we had a right good chance to get those three points, bank some money and shift the co-efficient a notch.

Worthless things?

Maybe they seem that way right now, but maybe there’s more to those things than meets the eye. I know I felt a certain pride coming out of Parkhead last night after our young side acquitted themselves so brilliantly.

That wasn’t nothing. They deserved to be in the winning team.

And so for those reasons, he played the odds.

It’s what I’d have expected him – any Celtic manager – to do. And whilst I’d have been relieved had he not done it, I can’t argue with it because I agreed with the decision whilst recognising the risks. As did he.

To have brought on a midfielder and played it out would have robbed us of the maximum chance, and he was never going to do that. That’s not who this guy is.

It might have paid off too. Had Kyogo scored the winner and run the show we’d be singing a different song.

All this anger is anger in hindsight. It’s also self-defeating.

The irony is that we won the game without Kyogo or Ajeti on the pitch. But he wasn’t to know that, any more than he was supposed to know that the Japanese Bhoy would pick up that injury.

Ange is a victim of absolutely dreadful luck, and the truth is that we’re labouring under fortune’s dark shadow all the time right now as a club.

As I’ve written previously, a viral outbreak could wipe the squad out more quickly than any injury crisis could, and that’s the Sword of Damocles which hangs over every team in the country.

Furthermore, Kyogo could just as easily have picked that injury up in training or in the first minute of the game on Sunday. If you think he needs wrapping in cotton wool then you’re already admitting you fear the worst, all the time, and that what happened last night was inevitable.

So where was the line?

The league is worth more than a Conference League run; I agree.

But should we simply not bother trying to have one?

The league is also more important than the League Cup, so there’s an argument for saying we could have left Kyogo out for that one as well. It’s the allegedly meaningless nature of last night’s game that makes it such an unacceptable risk in some people’s eyes, and they aren’t wrong … but they aren’t entirely right either.

Does anyone really believe that Ange was ignorant of the risks?

He dropped the entire first team for the game; he was well aware of it, which is why Kyogo and others didn’t start the match.

But the second Ajeti went off he had to choose between no longer playing to win and playing the best card he had in the deck.

And he played his best card, in part because he calculated that the chances of both of our strikers going down in the same game was virtually non-existent, and in his shoes I think most managers who wanted to win would have made that choice.

The thing now is not to let our frustration at the worst possible turn of events blind us to the enormous strides we’ve made under this guy.

I am not defending him for the sake of it.

I thought his substitutions in Leverkusen cost us at least a point, and said so.

I can’t be accused of being a slavish follower who simply agrees with the manager’s choices all of the time.

I don’t think his decision last night was wrong, but it had the wrong outcome.

But that’s football sometimes, that’s what gives managers grey hairs and fans collective heart failure. The guys in the dugout are paid to make these calls, and they stand or fall based on them.

We’re in a hole here and not because of that change but because we’re just in a place right now where we can’t catch a break, where our luck has temporarily deserted us.

Managers make their money, and their reputations, in the way they respond to these setbacks and although Ange was obviously scunnered last night with the way the dice landed, he’s not despondent but more determined than ever, and between that and his ideas, that is what will get us through the next few weeks and this important run of games.

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  • Michael McCartney says:

    Big Ange will lead Celtic to great times. Whatever Trophy or Trophies we win this season will be a bonus. I predict when this guy gets his own pool of players together between January and next summer we are going to see something special at Celtic Park. Being in my late 70’s I just hope I’m around for the next few years to see it.

    • Damian says:

      Agreed. The manager seems like the real deal and must be supported fully and patiently by the club and the fans.

  • jrm63 says:

    Assuming it is likely to be Abada through the middle if Forrest is still out. He looks to be lacking in confidence but he can strike a ball cleanly and is quick. We will see how he adapts

  • Damian says:

    Good piece, well argued.

    A bit too risky for me, without an obvious reward.

    Kyogo’s hamstring could have gone against Motherwell too. But, that’s a risk in pursuit of three points we really need.

    It’s more of a concern that we’ve lost 3/4 players to hamstring injuries in the last fortnight. But, a probably inevitable consequence of the way we’re playing with a squad that’s so thin because of major summer churn over (and longer term antiquated mismanagement of our football operation) – a way of playing that’s got us into the strong position we’re in, so not much use in complaining about it.

    The switch prove to be needless for me, because Johnston could have been brought on up top, or swapping in with Abada – the combination that saw out (and won out) the game in the end. That’s the bit that makes it sore. On that evidence alone, it cannot be argued that there was nothing else Ange could have done.

    A mistake from the manager for me, but all managers make them.

    That said, your arguments are valid and well made.

  • Geoff says:

    Absolute nonsense in something that can’t be defended.
    He is wrong in his constant full on training methods.
    These injuries are a price we have to pay?
    Same guy who said would rather lose 4-3 than survive a 1-0 win!!!!
    Sure all Hoops fans would agree the day of the final win against sevco.

    • Droopy McCool says:

      Geoff off

    • Damian says:

      But they’re not doing constant full training methods. Before the St Johnstone semi final, the manager himself said that they hadn’t done anything other than warm up in the previous day’s session. Given the amount of recovery days needed (something which the manager himself has spoken about) and the number of games we’re playing, the team probably won’t have a full training session all that often at this time.

      When they do train, they train hard. And the progress we’ve made this season is down to the manager’s methods. Know whose sessions weren’t so hardcore? Lennon’s. So, criticise it if you like. But, please continue to criticise it when we put in performances like last Sunday’s, or the home game against Alkmaar, say. There are benefits and there’s a cost too.

      I don’t think he should have played Kyogo. The fact that he ended up with a front three he could have gone to right away (in a game we won and which Kyogo himself had very little impact on in the time he played) is clear proof that he didn’t have to play him at all. It was a mistake. But, the manager’s methods have been the reason for the progress we’ve made this season (with a far cheaper and thinner squad than we had last season). He deserves our support, in spite of the mistake, and you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth.

    • Damian says:

      I’m also pretty sure that the Celtic manager has ever said he would rather lose 4-3 than win 1-0. I could be wrong but I’d be amazed if you could provide the quote. It’s the kind of exaggerated thing others might have said about him, but it certainly doesn’t sound like anything he’s ever said. For one thing, we have won 1-0 on a few occasions under this manager and I cannot recall him expressing any disquiet about those performances in post-match.

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