No sooner had Eddie Howe been ruled out of the running for the manager’s role at Celtic at the weekend than fans of the Glasgow club were scouring the internet for information on the man installed as favourite to replace Neil Lennon.
Ange Postecoglou’s name will have been unknown to many Celtic fans when the Australian emerged as the leading contender to take over at a club with a rich legacy and an unshakable thirst for success.
What would be the highest profile appointment for any Australian coach might raise eyebrows in Europe but the 55-year-old’s track record in Asian football has long marked him out as a talent worth watching.
After building a Brisbane Roar team that won back-to-back A-League titles, Postecoglou led Australia to the 2014 World Cup finals and the following year secured his homeland its first major trophy with an Asian Cup triumph.
In 2019, he became the first Australian coach to win the J-League crown when he steered Yokohama F Marinos to the title. Not only did Postecoglou deliver the club’s first title in 15 years, he did so while adhering strictly to his passion for possession football.
“When I first came to the club it was about playing football that people enjoyed watching, that the players enjoyed playing and was successful,” Postecoglou said last year.
Postecoglou’s tactical vision has its grounding in the methods espoused by Johan Cruyff when he coached Barcelona as the Dutchman sought to build on the Total Football ethos adopted by Rinus Michels at Ajax.
“Total Football is when you have the ball and everyone is involved, and the extension of that for me is that when you don’t have the ball and everyone is involved as well,” Postecoglou said.
“Some teams press aggressively but don’t have the ball much and play direct, and other teams have the ball but don’t press. We try to do both, which is not easy.
“For football to be simple when you have so many moving parts — our players, their players, the ball, everything’s moving — if you can make it look simple it means you’ve got something successful and unique.”
If he gets the Celtic job, there is no guarantee he will be given the time to put his ethos in place given the desire of the club’s huge fanbase to knock fierce rival Rangers off the Scottish Premiership summit.
As he proved when he walked away from the Socceroos job ahead of the 2018 World Cup, however, Postecoglou is not a man to compromise his principles.
“My vision is I want to play football everyone talks about, and I keep saying to the players: ‘It’s not about winning, it’s not about being first,'” he said.
“Let’s play football that everyone talks about. With that hopefully we will have success as well.”