Ange Postecoglou in bullish Celtic stance post Rangers as he insists ‘the road to success is not downhill, mate’

Ange Postecoglou knew he had a mountain to climb when he came in to Celtic in the summer and realized he was at base camp with barely a tent.

The Aussie have managed to drag the club to the Premiership summit but admits it felt like they went off a cliff with their Scottish Cup defeat to Rangers at the weekend.

The excited talk about trebles is lying in rubble but that doesn’t mean Postecolgou is going to abandon his quest. Not when his squad have come this far.

Postecoglou, always a man to put a philosophical slant on the bigger picture, said: “The road to success is not downhill, mate. It requires effort every single step of the way.

“Sometimes you’ll stumble. We’ve stumbled a few times this year as a group and we’ve managed to bounce back quickly.

“That’s what we’ve got to do again but just because it’s happened in the past doesn’t mean it’s going to happen in the future. What you do know is we’re capable of it, we’ve used it the right way in the past, and we use this disappointment in the right way for next week.

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“We’ve got five games to become champions so we have to perform well in every one, win those games and hopefully if that happens the players will get the rewards I think they deserve for their performances this season.

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”

Postecoglou’s message had a hint of Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, even though their display at Hampden was more confusing than Confucius.

The high-pressing, high-intensity play that’s been a hallmark this term and used to devastating effect as Celtic wiped the floor with their rivals in the whirlwind at Parkhead in February, was replaced with a more tentative approach.

It might have been a sign of the tension the manager predicted. It could have been a ploy to allow a weary Rangers side to punch themselves out.

Watching Postecoglou losing his rag on the touchline over his players’ inability to keep the ball suggested otherwise.

It might just be a strong Rangers side were simply better on the day. It’s hardly a stretch.

Despite what both sets of fans claim in the wake of an Old Firm win, defeat doesn’t make their opponents duffers overnight.

This is two good sides more than capable of beating each other when one is on song and the other hits a few bum notes.

But some Hoops fans will see it as a chance gone. Their side’s 34-match unbeaten domestic run took them to the verge of doing something pretty preposterous considering the standing start forced on the new manager.

A treble would have been a ridiculous achievement – ​​especially when up against a Rangers side that might have suffered occasional dips but have provided themselves among he cream of the continent.

Postecoglou insisted he’s never been hung up on the talk of clean sweeps, or anything else apart from the challenge in front of them.

He said: “I never thought about trebles or doubles, that’s language that’s used here. I’ve never thought about that in my career and I won’t think about it now.

“Every competition is an opportunity to be successful. For us at the moment we’ve won one trophy this year. Obviously our main goal this year was to become champions, and that’s still in our hands. We’ve got five games to do that and that’s what we’ve got to focus on.”

Postecoglou can still make it a remarkable, memorable season. The Premiership crown would be an incredible achievement but that doesn’t diminish the disappointment from Sunday.

It was put to the manager that some perspective would be required amid the Hampden post-mortem.

Not many would have predicted Celtic would still be in with a shout of lifting the title at this stage of the season never mind having one hand on the trophy.

It’s a get out of jail card Postecoglou would have been entitled to play. Many managers would have slapped it on the table as a way to deflect from a defeat. But it’s not the Celtic gaffer’s style. When asked if we would have accepted this position, Postecoglou said: “No I don’t think so because I think that’s selling ourselves short and our supporters short.

“Our supporters came hoping to see us get to another ending. I don’t think you can take these opportunities for granted, you don’t just assume they’re going to come around every year.

“All of them are hard-earned and when they come around you want to take them.

“I don’t think we’ve lost perspective and I don’t think it’s a matter of tailoring your language to make sure the players feel good about it.

“The reality of it is we were in a semi-final, a tight game as we knew it would be, and unfortunately we didn’t progress.

“That doesn’t change anything about next week. Whether we won or not the goal is still the same.”

Postcoglou’s task is now to prepare for another uphill task, away to red-hot Ross County on league duty this weekend.

There were a few walking wounded at Hampden and the Celtic manager is still patrolling the Lennoxtown treatment room.

Postecoglou added: “Both sets of players were pretty spent, they gave everything so I’ll see what the wash-up is.

“I don’t think it’s going to keep anyone out at the moment.”

Postecoglou is ready to climb off the floor again.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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