Ange Postecoglou issues Celtic player ‘standards’ challenge as he points to Callum McGregor ‘hunger’ against Rangers


Ange Postecoglou reckons he could’ve got the boots back on and played thanks to the super-charged atmosphere at Celtic Park.

But the Hoops boss insists the challenge for his squad is to make sure they turn it on when they don’t have 60,000 volts spurring them on.

Postecoglou might have soaked up a special evening in Glasgow’s East End but he’s not going to let himself or his squad think it’s job done just yet.

Parkhead was rocking as Rangers were sent spinning but his men needed to hit the road for Fir Park on Sunday and Pittodrie in midweek.

Motherwell and Aberdeen will be tough tests in their own right and the manager has challenged his men to keep up the electric form without the huge home crowd amping it up.

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Postecoglou said: “I don’t want to be dismissive but it’s sometimes easier to go out there like that. You feel that energy and think, ‘jeez…’.

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“I could have run around out there for 30 seconds before my knee blew up! I’d feel like I could take on anybody.

“It’s just important to understand the expectations don’t drop after the game, that the next game is all of a sudden forgiven if there’s not the same kind of performance, just because you achieved that on Wednesday night.

“It’s the relentlessness of the expectation the players need to get their heads around. It was great quite a few experienced their first derby, first big game like that, and they came through it really well.

“I know that will give them belief and confidence moving forward but that’s not the be all and end all. That expectation is there every game you play.”

Postecoglou was on the look out for signs of a swagger in training yesterday but was delighted it was business as usual. The Rangers victory was a turbo boost for Celtic’s title hopes but the boss wants going top of the table for the first meaningful time almost two years to be a staring point rather than mission accomplished.

Hitting the front is not to be sniffed at considering where this team has come from, but there is work to do.

Which is why he got a kick out of seeing skipper Callum McGregor calming down his troops amid the wild celebration following the final whistle on Wednesday night.

Postecoglou said: “The ambition hasn’t been to get to first place. It’s to have success this year and be the best football team we can be. Wednesday was another step – it’s not the final destination.

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“I didn’t expect players to have a major shift in their attitude for what they did. You saw Callum McGregor with the boys after the game when they were walking around the pitch.

“He was clear in his message to them. We enjoy it, but we go again tomorrow.

“Looking around the room this morning I didn’t notice any shift in attitude. If anything they are hungry to go for more.”

Celtic have built up a head of steam on an unbeaten domestic run of 21 games since September.

It’s a far cry from the hectic start when they lost three of the first six league games.

Instead the pendulum has swung back to the East End but Postecoglou has warned his squad there is no way they can coast from the front.

The Old Firm clash might have been a breeze but Celtic had to scrap their way to wins against Hearts and Dundee United in recent weeks and the boss doesn’t expect any less from Motherwell.

He reckons it could get even tougher as his side will have to fight complacency.

He said: “When you are thinking along those lines it is almost as though you are thinking that it’ll run itself and it doesn’t work that way.

“My experience of football over 25 years is that you need to be ready for every challenge.

“You need to understand that what’s gone in the past doesn’t give you any kind of advantage going forward.

“If anything the expectation keeps rising and the challenges keep rising.

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“We can sit here and say ‘well we are on a great run, things are going well and we just expect to roll out there on Sunday against Motherwell away from home’ but we know it is going to be a tough game and would be falling into that trap. We’ve had that reminder already since the break.

“We’ve had a couple of tight games – against United we were at home to a team whose form wasn’t super and you think ‘this will be a comfortable afternoon’ and then all of a sudden you are down to 10 men and we have to find a way to win in the 90th minute.

“What I try and impress on my players every week is that we have to try and play our best football in that game, the game that is before us. We have to rise to that challenge.

“Because that ultimately is what is going to decide whether we are successful or not, not what has happened in the past.”




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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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