As the Newcastle United midfielder this week exited Pittodrie for Mansfield only six months into a loan deal originally set up to cover the season, he also stated that in the Scottish top flight “everything was more of a fight” than its global-leading English equivalent .
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou, whose team have now faced every side home and away going into their second visit to Pittodrie, would frame the football played in this country differently, even in appearing to find common ground with the 21-year-old on the scrapping angle.
“I think there is a variety of styles. It depends,” Postecoglou said of the, somewhat unfair, extrapolation from Longstaff’s comments that he was suggesting it was all kick-and-rush in Scotland. “With us, it is a little 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 they are from down south, players will come up here and somehow – maybe because the profile of the clubs isn’t high – think they’ll get easy games, or 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 I think 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.”
In contrast to the English upper tier, Celtic find themselves in a league where they will often face teams with only a 20th of their budget. Postecoglou believes that should not dictate a more reductive approach, though, as a means to offset and quality or monetary differentials.
“I don’t buy into that theory that you can’t play different types of football [because of any disadvantages],” the Celtic manager said. “When we played Bayer Leverkusen I can tell you our budget wasn’t 20 times theirs…I think it was the other way round. No-one can tell me we didn’t play our football against them. 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 doing 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. I think the budget aspect does give you some advantages, but we have also seen how spending money doesn’t guarantee you success.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.