What a day that was yesterday, and the highlight, I think for many of us, was watching Ange after the match and his emotional response to the Celtic fans. He never expected this when he arrived from Japan; this is the club he was waiting for his whole career and though we didn’t know it he was the manager that we were waiting for too.
As I said in my lengthy piece about him the other day, Ange is a man of the highest quality and standards, a man of tremendous intellect and passion. But in spite of these many gifts he has that other thing which a lot of great men possess; a deep humility and generosity of spirit which means he is more comfortable sharing the limelight than hogging it.
It is the characteristic of a lot of “leaders” in this era never to admit when they are wrong, and to horde the credit when they are seen to be right. But anyone who studies the dynamics of leadership properly knows that a big part of it is in trust and the ability to find other smart and talented people and to delegate responsibility … and that means that success is not simply the province of one man but of the group as a whole.
Yes, certainly, it takes that special individual to bring that group together and to harness their skills in the right manner … but Ange Postecoglou is ever focussed on the team. On the group.
Yesterday, he allowed the players to take the first bow and only then did he go over to the fans. When he spoke at the end, as emotional as we’ve seen him yet, he took time to thank people, the others who he sees as having played a major role in our triumph.
This is one of the many reasons he’s held in such high esteem, one of the reasons he commands such respect and devotion in the dressing room. Ange shares the credit. Although he’s the master architect, he appreciates the work of everyone who laid as much as a brick and he makes sure that when it comes to taking a bow that they get their due credit.
Celtic’s success is a group effort, and that group does not simply include the management team and the players but – and this must be said – everybody from the executive level down. The board has done the business here too. Let’s not be churlish and deny that. I am one of their most vocal critics, but when they are doing right you have to call it.
Ange knows this. But it’s true of every club which does big things. It is so very, very rare for the manager to be so magnanimous. The game is full of egos, and whilst I am certain that Ange has a healthy self-regard – confidence, indeed, which could, in the wrong personality type quite easily tip over into megalomania – he remains incredibly grounded.
Not so with the guy across town, who you cannot watch or listen to without coming away with the sense that he is capricious, spiteful, petty and thin-skinned. He is ungracious in defeat. He is preening and strutting in victory.
Not only will he try to undermine the successes of those he’s up against but he doesn’t have the least shame in trying to claim the successes of other people with whom he has worked. He deliberately undermined his predecessor to get his job.
Yesterday, even as Ange was sharing the credit for Celtic’s title triumph, this small fraction of a man was throwing one of his own players under the bus in the cruellest way imaginable with his shocking and highly inappropriate after-match comments about Morelos.
Now, listen, you’re not going to find me expressing the least sympathy for that guy. That’s not the point. He and Kent are bad tempered individuals with a streak of nastiness in them which the fans across the city loved as long as it looked like it might provide success. It’s a pity that neither of them had a fraction of the talent the media sometimes promoted.
Morelos’ has more and more demonstrated an unprofessionalism which has harmed his growth as a player. He would never have been the big money footballer the Ibrox loving media and their demented fans believed he would be, but he’d have far better career prospects than he does right now. Still, for all that, this is a guy who scored more than 100 goals for them, and who a lot of their fan-base considers a pretty good player overall.
I never feared Morelos. Not against us. But as their fans will attest, there are a lot of games in the past six years, including a few this season under this manager, which they simply would not have won without his being in the side. The number of goals he got for them, when the chips were down and no-one else offered anything, was regrettably high.
The Mooch was always going to have to level with the fans about Morelos being on the way out of Ibrox. I never believed for one second that he would stay beyond this contract, and I’ll talk about the contract itself at another time.
But for many months now their manager has strung the fans along with these stories about how he was satisfied that he and Kent could be convinced to stay.
Nothing but rot, all of it. Van Bronckhorst, who was a far less egotistical boss and spoke much more directly and honestly, had made the position on those two public months ago when he said that they and the clubs were miles apart in their talks.
Still, The Mooch was allowed to play out his little charade by a media which didn’t want to press him for an answer and didn’t want to rock the boat whilst there was even a sliver of a chance that he could win a domestic trophy. With the cup semi-final win for Ange and this team last week the need for any further pretence was shattered.
And so yesterday, in the aftermath of the Aberdeen game, The Mooch decided to throw some red meat to the gibbering hordes and he made a blood sacrifice of the striker.
“I think you saw a difference when Alfredo came on in terms of energy but not a positive difference,” he said. “Alfredo is obviously going to be moving on.”
It is inconceivable – absolutely inconceivable – that Ange would have lashed out at any player in such a vindictive manner. It is classless. It reveals a tendency towards malice which we’ve already seen in small flashes from this guy and confirms him as a deeply unpleasant figure who it is plain our own manager has little time for, partly as a consequence of the Ibrox boss attempting to denigrate his career and achievements earlier this season.
Ange has seen players depart this club and not reacted like that. He is probably aware of one or two players in the squad right now who are getting itchy feet. If it’s true that Abada wants to go then I have no doubt he’ll be allowed to, but the suggestion that Ange is in the huff with him for it and has dropped him as a result is simply ridiculous.
He would never have tolerated either Kent or Morelos, as neither is consistent enough. That Morelos has also self-evidently chucked it would have infuriated Ange, because that’s all he asks of any player, that whilst they are at Celtic they give their all.
But The Mooch has been picking Morelos for game after game after game.
He made it plain earlier in the season that it was Colak he had no faith in, which has sufficiently sickened him. Any manager with a shred of respect for what a player had done at the club before his arrival, or an understanding of basic psychology, would have been aware of the dynamics involved in balancing the competing egos in a dressing room.
But he is interested in just one ego; his own.
He could have handled the announcement that Morelos intended to leave with some grace and dignity. Instead he acted like some petulant teenager stood up on prom night, bitterly expressing his view that his would-be date looked fat in her outfit anyway.
It’s an appalling way to manage men, and it’s clear that he accepts no responsibility for the state Morelos has been allowed to get into.
A better manager would have worked this guy until he was in shape, or would have slammed him into the reserves until he screwed his head on. But The Mooch kept on picking him regardless, and has now thrown him under the bus. But that’s the sort of man he is.
The sort who would try to appropriate the success of the man he worked for. Who would try to belittle the achievements of a better manager and a better man. The sort who would undermine his predecessor so he could steal his job. The sort who would lie to his previous employer with pledges of loyalty he had no intention of living up to.
Of course he throws his players aside like garbage when they no longer serve his purposes.
Of course he takes no responsibility for their failures and failings.
Of course he milks every good result for all that he can get and rarely offers credit to another living soul.
The only emotions this guy will ever display will be for himself, on the day their club realises the size and scale of the mistake it made in hiring him in the first place. It’s been obvious to every one of us that this appointment had “popcorn time!” stamped on it from the off … when their board can no longer deny that they’ll put him down like a sick dog.
The differences between these two men have never been more obvious than they were yesterday. The grace and decency and respectfulness of Ange Postecoglou has its mirror image across town in the passive-aggressive selfish egotist at Ibrox.
It was TS Elliot, in another context, who said “the end is in the beginning,” and so it’s been here.
The man who attended an earlier game against Aberdeen at Ibrox to advertise his availability for the job in spite of someone holding it at that point, sat yesterday in that job, and lashed out angrily as the pressure of it continues to mount.
Eventually it is going to consume him, and much else with it.
Across at Tynecastle, the man who had his first Premiership experience at that ground, and tasted defeat there amongst much media scorn and doubt, celebrated his greatest triumph yet and in the aftermath talked about his own method of handling pressure.
To trust in the process, the ideas he was trying to get across and, most importantly, in the team he was in the process of assembling in order to get it right. But he talked about that only after thanking those people first.
What a class act.