No respite for Celtic as Angel Postecoglou reflects on his work so far and focuses on the challenges ahead

The end of the year is an opportunity to reflect on what happened before, and there aren’t many people who have experienced it in the past 12 months more eventful than Ange Postecoglou.

Beginning the year in Japan, he ended it in Perth, as the start of his tenure as Celtic manager finally gave him some breathing space following his side’s victory over St Johnstone.

These three crucial points have kept Celtic in touch with Rangers at the top of the Premiership table, and while Postecoglou would obviously prefer not to be six points behind his club’s rivals at this point in the campaign, there are Mitigating factors that made even such a modest prospect seem distant when the season kicked off in August.

Perhaps Postecoglou’s mantra is that there are no excuses, but given the situation he entered upon his appointment in June and the obstacles he has faced since, this is a testament to his impact that not only did Celtic cling to the Rangers’ tails, but they’ve already put the first trophy of the season in their closet when they face Hibernian in the League Cup final.

Eddie Howe’s second pick, the four months between Neil Lennon’s departure and Postecoglou’s arrival hampered his task of rebuilding a Celtic squad that required major surgery.

That job is far from over, with the January window another key moment in Postecoglou’s rebuilding, but between the 12 players who arrived and those who stayed at the club – some of whom he revitalized like Anthony Ralston and Tom Rogic – he managed to put together a team that proved to be more than competitive nationally.

The Champions League exit to Midjtylland was a disappointment, although far from unexpected given the staff available at the time, and there were some tough lessons in the Europa League, where Celtic’s defense has been exhibited by Real Betis and Bayer Leverkusen. But the two wins over Ferencvaros and the victory over Betis in the last group game were comfort that some of those lessons were being taken into account.

With the Premiership still in Celtic’s sights, the Scottish Cup ahead and the UEFA Conference League play-off against Bodo / Glimt ahead, Celtic fans have a lot to look forward to in the second half of the first. Postecoglou season. But how does the man himself reflect on the work he has done so far?

“It’s been hectic, for sure, since the moment I arrived,” Postecoglou said. “I don’t think there was any time we were able to relax.

“We just took on different challenges every week. In the beginning, it was to bring the guys together, to bring in the players. We had injuries, we had all kinds.

“The schedule was very tough. We have been consistent throughout and I have been consistent about not making any excuses or allowances for the players. I just told them, “Let’s just show our character through all of this stuff,” and they were great.

“I really enjoyed it. It was quick to be sure, it was a bit hazy, but I love every minute and look forward to the challenges of the new year.

Despite pausing for a moment of soul-searching, Postecoglou quickly focused on preparing his team for these challenges, with the prospect of being able to work on the training ground – where you feel Postecoglou is happiest – during winter break a welcome.

“It’s been a while to be fair,” he said. “It’s been kind of a game recovery for a while now.

“Just to be able to work with the players and work on our game and continue to push and help our game, this will be a critical time for us and for the players.

“No breaks. We keep breaking down. There’s a lot to do.”

In between those training sessions, Postecoglou will look to continue his signing plans, with Japanese players Daizen Maeda and Reo Hatate likely to be the first to arrive from the window at Lennoxtown.

“We’ve been working on this for some time, knowing that we had to strengthen the squad in January,” he said. “It gives us a chance, without games, to push with that.

“I hope we have good news for the new year and that we will provide reinforcements.”

When asked if he would have time to shut down, Postecoglou displayed his trailing Australian accent.

“Naaah,” he replied. “I had a good morning with my family [on Christmas Day].

“I have young people who were causing chaos with their gifts from Santa Claus. And it was great. But listen, I love what I do. I don’t need to switch off. Its good.

“I really enjoyed the first six months, tough as they were. I enjoyed every minute of it and know there are huge challenges ahead so I’m looking forward to it.

“I have a lot of energy. We’ll have plenty of time to put out the mate when I’m old and gray.

One more hamstring injury for a Celtic player, and that day could come sooner than he thinks.

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