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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Ewan Murray

Postecoglou would be a fine fit for Spurs – Celtic should wish him well if he leaves

Angelos Postecoglou waves to the fans  at Celtic Park
Angelos Postecoglou waves to the fans at Celtic Park but will he be waving goodbye in the near future? Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

The thing about speculation is that those who bemoan it often have it within their capabilities to remove its very existence. The more Ange Postecoglou talked about his focus solely being on a Scottish Cup final between Celtic and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, the prospect of a move to Tottenham Hotspur increased.

Postecoglou will argue he was only being respectful to his employers, Celtic, and their opposition but his refusal to categorically commit to another season in Scotland is telling. If Spurs formalise their interest in the Australian next week, it feels inevitable he will accept their offer.

A cup final where Celtic’s supporters planned to celebrate the completion of another domestic treble now promises to be a strange occasion. Postecoglou, having reset and rebuilt Celtic in pretty short order, is idolised. The problem clubs such as this have is that their position in the food chain dictates they are susceptible to poachers from loftier environments. Brendan Rodgers felt he had more than served his time at Celtic and headed for Leicester. Steven Gerrard had enough of Rangers by the time Aston Villa came calling. Players at both halves of the Old Firm can get extremely tetchy if they feel a pathway to the Premier League is not being properly facilitated after a sensible period of time.

Being the big fish in an increasingly small pond has a shelf life, especially for someone with as itinerant a career as Postecoglou. Spurs is as big a job as he could reasonably look to secure: world-class facilities, a world-class league and a salary which will materially change Postecoglou’s life. Postecoglou clearly has an affinity with Celtic but he has never really given the impression his role means more to him than business.

Nonetheless, those Celtic fans have cause to feel like jilted lovers. It was the Scottish champions who gave Postecoglou his long-awaited break on this continent. Two seasons feels like only an adequate repayment, regardless of how fulfilling the bashing of Kilmarnock, St Johnstone and Rangers supposedly feels. Without taking on a second consecutive season in the Champions League, Postecoglou will leave as a domestic demigod but with questions swirling about whether his approach can prevail when stakes are raised. His overall European record at Celtic is dismal.

The 57-year-old would come relatively cheaply to Spurs. Joe Lewis, the London club’s owner, is a close friend of the Celtic principal shareholder, Dermot Desmond. Lewis will have been well aware of Postecoglou’s abilities for some time. So, too, is the Spurs chief football officer, Scott Munn. Postecoglou and Munn, who are compatriots, had earlier ties to the City Football Group. When the close relationship of Postecoglou’s agency group to Spurs is factored in, none of this feels as last ditch or desperate as some are keen to portray. Lewis could have swiftly ended the Spurs link, via Desmond, were it untrue.

Ange Postecoglou holds aloft the Scottish Premiership trophy after the game against Aberdeen on 24 May
Ange Postecoglou holds aloft the Scottish Premiership trophy after the game against Aberdeen on 24 May. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Postecoglou tends to travel alone, which should secure Ryan Mason’s position within the coaching structure. The connection to Munn will assist with Spurs’ director of football hunt. Postecoglou would never have the autonomy at Spurs he enjoys at Celtic but a club which was in such a pickle it had to jettison a caretaker head coach should probably listen a little more to the voice of experience.

Postecoglou will not care at all about the perception he was plan D, E or F for Spurs. The scale of rebuild in north London will not bother Postecoglou either. He has self-assuredness and a publicly declared history of transforming every club he has managed. Postecoglou never disregards opposition but he is adamant their approach need not be relevant if his own players carry out their tasks properly. This appeals to modern footballers.

Any manager should take the not unreasonable position that the only way is up for a wealthy club which just finished eighth in the Premier League, not least without the 2023-24 fixture hassle supplied by European competition. If Postecoglou can implement his 4-3-3 system with relentless attack as a prerequisite, no supporter will reference his background in Scotland’s top flight. Instead, Celtic’s reputation as a strong breeding ground for players and coaches will be enhanced; hence they should want Postecoglou to succeed.

Postecoglou will not appreciate the sentiment but Celtic should be capable of seeing off Inverness, who finished sixth in the second tier, with Pingu in the dugout. The alternative outcome would rank among the biggest Scottish Cup shocks of all time.

Against this backdrop, with justified confidence in his team, it should not have been too much to ask that Postecoglou properly articulated the nature of his Spurs situation. Instead, everyone is expected to believe it would be a dereliction of duty for a manager to contemplate more than one thing at a time. Postecoglou wants to oversee one more triumph, minus a distraction all onlookers are consumed by.

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