Ange Postecoglou didn’t set out any specific targets when he walked in the front door at Celtic. The Aussie isn’t changing that approach now he’s returned for year two as a champion.
But Postecoglou knows one thing – that Celtic never stops. And, somehow, he has to try and make this term even better than he has managed to make the unforgettable last. Postecoglou’s first 12 months in charge was like a fairytale as he inherited chaos and turned it into triumph against all the odds.
Postecoglou savored the experience of winning a Premiership and a Premier Sports and got the deserved plaudits but, although he walked back in the building for this pre-season with those two trophies on the sideboard and Champions League group stages to relish, he’s aware it’s now a clean slate.
At the same time, Postecoglou knows, if things do come off for him again, Celtic will likely be in a good place again as he explained: “We didn’t set out with any specific targets last year. We just wanted to be the best we could possibly be.
“It will be the same this year. If we can improve on our performances since last year, which we have to, if we can improve on everything we do, then we’re going to finish in a pretty good spot.
“We don’t know what that means in terms of tangible results. But every year I’ve started a football season I want the team to be the best it can possibly be.
“Again, that’s our aim this year.”
Work began for some members of the squad this term at Lennoxtown yesterday as those who did not have summer international duties got down to graft.
Postecoglou is thrilled to have time at his disposal this summer that he didn’t have last. For example, no thick Champions League qualifiers before the title defense starts.
Postecoglou’s team head for Austria on Monday for two games, face Czechs Banik Ostrava and go away to Warsaw to meet Legia.
Blackburn Rovers and Norwich City will grace Parkhead either side of the Poland trip and the manager believes the schedule which has been put in place gives his team a great chance to pick up where they left off.
Through the turmoil of last summer, Celtic suffered adverse results in the early weeks before summer signings were completed and the campaign settled down.
This time Postecoglou wants the squad ready from the get-go and said: “They [six games] will be super important because, once we get to the first round of the Premiership, we know from them on up until the break in November, we are going to be going at it and we want to be ready. We have to be ready.
“We know we got off to a slow start last year and we certainly don’t want to be doing that again with so many important games early in the season.
“So I think it is a good program we have put together with the mixture of us going away which is great and playing against different types of opposition.
“We have a couple of games at Celtic Park and a couple of sort of European trips in the middle, which, hopefully, prepares us for the Champions League and the travels we have got there.
“So we have tried to put a program together which we think will give us the best chance of being ready.”
Postecoglou is certainly ready. Having barely had a break in a year and a half after swapping Japan for Glasgow, the boss managed to enjoy well-earned down time.
The batteries are recharged for the challenges ahead, but, speaking to Celtic TV, he did admit he took some time to reflect on the glories of year one.
He said: “I’d have a good break. When you are in the middle of it, you don’t realize that it was a pretty hectic 18 months for myself.
“For my family, obviously, coming from Japan midway through last season and going right through to the end of the year, it was great just to spend time with them.
“I got a little bit of a chance to reflect on my first season. You want to switch off a little bit and that includes reflecting on last year, even though you are still thinking about football.
“But I think we had a great final day at Celtic Park and we had a week after that to sort of get around the place and talk to people.
“Not just at the football club, but, more importantly, what it meant to our supporters.
“So I’d a good week here in Glasgow after we played the final game. When I went away I tried to switch off, but as the weeks went on, I started thinking about this year.
“Item [trophy] was a special day I think for everyone. We knew we were champions by that point, but credit to the lads and everyone involved, they wanted to make it a really special day with a good performance.
“That allowed everyone to enjoy it in their own way. It was just great to see. My family was out on the pitch as were all the boys’ families.
“So it was great to see them share the moment. It was just brilliant to see our supporters enjoy it more than anything else.
“It was good to switch off and reflect a little bit on last year. But I’m ready to get going again.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.