One of the things that is most impressive about our manager is the way he conducts himself in front of the media. I thought that today he was absolutely brilliant. On a day when the team was horribly poor, he once again proved his own quality and class.
It is a good manager who protects his players.
It is a good manager who can spot when the media is trying to trap him into saying something wrong.
It is a good manager who takes victory and defeat the same way, focussed ever on the next date on the calendar.
He did all of that today. It was a sublime display of managerial cool.
He was critical of the side as a whole, in saying that nobody reached the standards he expects.
But when he was asked to specifically comment on the guys who came in, he suggested that the team selection should be blamed on him. That’s not directly answering the question he was asked.
What it did do was remove the focus from the players.
Ange did this not because these guys need coddled but because he recognises that a failure like that one today was not the fault of individuals but that of the collective, that of the whole unit.
To have criticised those who came in would have offered a needless alibi to those who play every week and who weren’t near to the levels he demands.
His decision to change six players was not the problem.
He changed nine for the Ross County game and we won comfortably.
There were enough good players on that park today that we should have taken the three points just as easily.
Some of those who let us down most – Abada, McGregor, Hart, Lenz and Maeda – are regulars and have been brilliant for months.
So I thought that his decision to divert to the decisions he made was a brilliant way of taking the flak for his guys.
That’s what good leaders do.
The question about the “tribute” and the “respect” was an obvious one he would have seen coming a million miles away and those in the press corps who were salivating at the prospect of his saying something rash or something which put him at odds with the fans were swiftly dashed when he brushed that aside by pointing out that he answered those questions on Friday.
Ange did that without the slightest trace of anger in his voice, although I’m damned sure that he must be sick fed up of these questions which have nothing to do with his role as our manager.
I won’t say that he is used to this now – how could you ever get used to it? – but he now accepts it.
Only rarely does his contempt show.
Ange knows their game. He knows their agenda.
If he didn’t believe the Celtic fan media when we told him he’d have to watch these people, he does now.
What came across most today though was his contention that this is football and even with the best form in the world, you’re going to have days like today and not to get carried away.
He knows what he has from the first, what he’s preached from the first.
The most important game is the next one.
This guy will not dwell on defeats any more than he basks in the victories.
He will simply focus on how to do better.
That’s why he’s the stand-out best manager in the country bar none.
That’s why he will pick this team up and drive them forward.
It’s why we’ll again be champions.