Poor Matty Longstaff might not have enjoyed the rough and tumble of the Scottish Premiership but it’s a different story for Ange Postecoglou.
The Celtic manager loves it. And he doesn’t for a second buy the former Aberdeen loan flop’s assessment of the game in these parts.
Newcastle kid Longstaff won’t face Celts tonight as he decided he’s better off learning his craft in the renowned silky soccer environment of Mansfield Town in England’s League Two.
Apparently Scottish football is all long balls and all-out wars, according to the midfielder but Postecoglou admits he must be watching a different game.
The Hoops boss knows the SPFL can be a bit rough around the edges but he doesn’t believe young players can’t develop here.
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If anything he reckons it does them the world of good to try to succeed in matches where folk barely get a chance to blink, let alone draw breath.
Postecoglou said: “There is a variety of styles. With us, it is a bit different because a lot of teams will set up more defensively. When I watch games between other teams you can see different styles, different systems.
“But the one thing you can’t shy away from is that it is a competitive league, it’s not an easy league.
“Sometimes, particularly when people come from down south, players will come up here and somehow because maybe the profile of the clubs isn’t high, think you’ll get easy games, get time.
“You don’t get time and space up here. It doesn’t matter who you are playing against. It is very, very competitive.
“It’s why it is a good league for young players because if you can handle the competitiveness of the league here, then that sets them up.
“We have seen it with our players, particularly the foreigners. They need to adjust and understand that every game is a battle.
“Home or away, it is going to have intensity and no teams here to give you time and space to do what you want to do. From that perspective, it is a very challenging league.”
Postecoglou wants his men to be ready for all different kinds of challenges on a weekly basis.
Rangers provided one test last week, Motherwell another at the weekend. Both were swatted aside before half-time.
It’s another examination at Pittodrie tonight but the Aussie doesn’t go along with the theory the wild difference in finances dictates how the teams play up here.
A lack of dosh doesn’t have to automatically mean hoof ball.
Postecoglou said: “I don’t buy into that theory that you can’t play different types of football.
“When we played Bayer Leverkusen our budget wasn’t 20 times theirs. I think it was the other way around. No one can tell me we didn’t play our football against them. I’ve never believed that, even when I was managing in Australia, or Japan.
“To me the style of game you play is not just dependent on the quality of your players. You can play different types of football at different levels. It hasn’t stopped me from what we did when we played Leverkusen.
“We played them away from home and if anyone tries to say we changed our approach they weren’t watching the game. The budget aspect does give you some advantages but we have also seen how spending money doesn’t guarantee you success.”
Postecoglou has already had a whiff of success in Scotland with the Premier Sports Cup up his juke and the Premiership crown up for grabs.
He’s got his side playing flat out but he chuckles when he hears Celtic are a 60-minute team who run out of gas towards the end of games.
Postecoglou reckons with the majority of his squad fit, teams will need to buckle up for the full 90 from now on.
He said: “It is a funny one for me because people are talking about that now but in the past few games – except for United at home – we have really put them to bed in the first 45 minutes.
“It had nothing to do with our subs. If anything, in the second halves, we haven’t scored the goals we have in the first half.
“For me, a bigger squad with more substitutes, means not overloading our players more than anything else.
“It is not so much about maintaining intensity during a game, we can do that, but you can’t maintain that intensity across three games in a week with one set of players.
“It is just impossible. We tried that in the first half of the year as we didn’t have the squad we wanted and we suffered through injuries because we were putting an enormous burden on the players.
“So it is not an issue maintaining it for 90 minutes, it is about maintaining it for 90 minutes across the course of three games a week.”
Celtic’s schedule could be about to get even busier with the Scottish Cup this weekend and Bodo/Glimt arriving in the Europa Conference League next week.
Celts could have 18 games in eight weeks but Postecoglou said: “I would probably be complaining if we weren’t in the cup or in Europe. This is what we want.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.