In history, particular time periods are often named after the King or Queen who reigned at that time. Thus we have the Elizabethan era or Georgian era.
In understanding Celtic history, we can do the same with managers, talking about the Maley era or the Strachan age, and so on. As the age of Ange Postecoglou has reached its conclusion, what can we say of his time in charge?
On the face it, one major observation is how wrong so many people can be about a managerial appointment. If we reverse almost two years to the day that Ange was appointed (10 June 2021), who could have predicted this?
“Ange who?”, “Gone by Halloween” and “Celtic’s Pedro Caixinha” were some of the more charitable comments. No-one now will ever forget Hugh Keevins’ jibe that Ange stood for “Absolutely. Not. Good. Enough.”
How things can change. As Celtic’s Greek-Australian departs it is to the riches of England’s Premier League, having won five domestic trophies in two years.
His loss is mourned by Celtic fans and cheered by almost everyone else.
So where does he stand in comparison to the other 18 men who have held the title of permanent Celtic manager?
In order to be considered a good Celtic manager, the first requirement is domestic success. There is no doubt that Ange’s five trophies are evidence of this. Indeed, but for a ball hitting the bar in last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final, he could have achieved a double Treble.
Not only that, but all of this was done in the face of negative expectations.
After Celtic’s COVID season implosion, most people would have expected a new man to take longer to impose himself and shape a dominant team. Yet he did so quickly, playing exciting football in the process.
Ange Postecoglou has clearly then been a good Celtic manager.
But a great one? To be a truly great Celtic manager, one of two things are required:
1) Longevity, staying at the club so long that you truly shape and mould the institution
2) European success, elevating the club simply being Scotland’s top team
In this regard, Ange clearly falls down.
Of the 19 men who have been Celtic boss, only five have spent the same time (Deila) or less time at the club (Macari, Jansen, Venglos and Mowbray). And other than Jansen, none of them chose to leave.
Ange ultimately came up short in Europe.
Certainly the football was exciting although – this season especially – it was more a tale of ‘almost’ for Celtic; we ‘almost’ took the lead against Real Madrid, we ‘almost’ won games in the Champions League, and so on.
In terms of Europe, ‘what if?’ will replace ‘almost’.
Next season was always going to be the first season where Ange truly deserved to be judged on his continental record.
Now that particular outcome will remain an unknown.
On a personal level, Ange is obviously a very good man, exemplified in the time he gave over to fans. After one game where I waited with my daughter he came out to take pictures with fans, staying at least an hour and ensuring everyone got a photo.
This was by no means a one-off.
However leaving so soon – whilst possibly the correct personal decision for him – limits Ange’s place in the overall ranking of Celtic managers. Brendan Rodgers is vilified by many – and clearly leaving mid-season is a different issue – although he actually stayed longer at the club.
Obviously Ange will never be considered amongst the elite of Celtic’s managerial figures. Two men stand out in this regard; Willie Maley for his long-term commitment, and Jock Stein for his phenomenal success, especially in Europe.
For me, the next level of Celtic bosses would include Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan, again for their domestic triumphs but also European impact.
Billy McNeill is another candidate, for the years he gave Celtic and his standout moments, such as the Centenary season and ten-men-won-the-league. And whisper it, but Brendan Rodgers’ domestic impact is the same.
After that, there is a mix of men who have enjoyed Celtic managerial success, without achieving elite status: Hay, Deila and Lennon.
And now add to that list, Ange Postecoglou.
The only question perhaps is where he sits within this section; after all, Neil Lennon won more, and had legendary European nights, such as Barcelona in 2012.
Professional historians will confirm that in fact you cannot fully judge an era or event until well after its conclusion.
Only years later can you truly understand the impact or effect of this, and so it will be with Ange.
To some extent, his legacy depends on what comes next for Celtic.
If the club appoint another manager who further develops and improves the club – especially with an eye towards Europe – then Ange’s time will be better remembered.
However, if the club gets the next appointment wrong, it is possible there will be more negative feeling towards Ange, in much the same way that Brendan Rodgers’ name often invokes (albeit in different circumstances).
(And that, of course, will be subject to review at a later date now …)
For my own part, I wish Ange Postecoglou well.
He was a positive influence on the club, and leaves Celtic in a stronger and better place than when he arrived. However in years to come it is likely my memory will place him alongside Celtic’s other two-year manager, Ronny Deila.
Deila came and enjoyed success with the club, albeit not at Ange’s level.
But he was a decent man who tried to improve the club, and won some competitions along the way.
In the long-term, these sentiments will likely be echoed by my Ange opinion.
Ange’s departure is disappointing, but plenty of greater managers and figures have departed in the past.
Yet still the club has gone from strength to strength.
The King is dead.
And with the return – stunning as it is – of Brendan Rodgers … we have a new one.
I’ll be covering that in the next article.
Matthew Marr is a Celtic fan and a writer living in Glasgow. His first book, on Celtic’s first ever title winning side, was published this year and you can buy a copy of it at the below link.