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Angelos Postecoglou

Few football coaches reach the level of Angelos Postecoglou in the Barclays Premiership League, the United Kingdom’s main division in football.

Angelos, born in Athens Greece moved to Australia when he was five years old. He grew up in Melbourne, Victoria. He started his playing career in South Melbourne where he played in the National Soccer League between 1984 and 1993. He won two championship titles as a player with South Melbourne, in 1984 and 1990-91, the latter as captain of the team.

Ange Postecoglou has revealed that he was always destined to become a football manager, having started coaching when he was just 12 years old. The Greek-Aussie ended up taking charge of his school team when he was just a boy, winning his first trophy in the process. His winning of the U-12s state championship in Melbourne would set him on the road to a life in football and more specifically, management.

He said, “Looking back it seems crazy, to me more than anyone else. I don’t know why people were listening to a 12-year-old but there must have been something about me that made them. It’s quite bizarre when you think about it but it’s probably why I have always felt more of a coach. I struggled with my playing career as I just felt my destiny was to be a manager.”

What is most telling is that Ange insists that it is in the sphere of coaching where he really came into his own, whilst conceding that it’s where he has always felt most at ease.

“That was the space where I always felt most comfortable. I would have been annoying as a 12-year-old coach. I’m sure that I would have annoyed a lot of people. But that’s when the coaching career started."

He went on to say, “There hadn’t been a soccer team before and we put a group together. We had a music teacher who said he would take the team but there wasn’t any coaching or training. He would sit and mark his homework while we all just had a kickabout."

After the first few sessions he took control. It sounds bizarre because he was so young, but for some reason he took control of the whole thing and people listened. He didn’t just pretend to be the coach; picking the team while having a few sessions to tell everyone what to do.According to what he said, "Looking back, I think I got power hungry.”

“I was a player, coach and captain and one of my closest mates – we’re still friends to this day. He wanted to bring me down a peg or two. He decided that the team would have a vote to see if I should continue as captain. We had the vote and it ended up being unanimous."

He continued, “I said to my mate, ‘How could it be unanimous if you called the vote in the first place?’ And he said, ‘I voted for you too. You’re the best person for the job but I just wanted to see if other people would vote for you’. I was running the show and to this day I don’t understand why anyone listened to me. I wasn’t anything special. My mates still say to me, ‘Why were we listening to you back then?’ But we ended up winning the Under-12s state championship at South Melbourne’s ground.”

It seems that Angelo Postecoglou was pre-destined to become a football manager. It was always in his blood. Playing football was merely a means to an end for his true qualities to shine through this intriguing character. The leadership skills that he showed as a 12-year-old are still present today. It is that leadership and determination that will wrestle back our crown this season.

As a player, he spent most of his club career as a defender for South Melbourne Hellas and played four games for the Australia national team in the late 1980s. He began managing at South Melbourne Hellas in 1996, winning the National Soccer League twice and the OFC Champions League in 1999. He then led the national under-17 and under-20 teams.

A knee injury cut his short playing career. Ange became Assistant Manager under Frank Arok in no time before taking over the reins and leading his beloved South Melbourne Hellas to back-to-back winning titles in 1998 and 1999 as a rookie manager.

This extraordinary introduction to management and his lucky star served him well as the World Club Championship became available for the current NSL championship team, allowing him to play against the treble-winning side of Man Utd and legendary football clubs such as Vasco da Gama of Brazil and Necaxa of Mexico.

Arsène Wenger came from Japan to take over Arsenal and had a huge influence on English football. Postecoglou, who unlike the Frenchman won the Japanese title, could also be a game changer internationally if he heads to the Premier League and succeeds. Well, the fact of the matter is he came over to England in July 2023 to head Tottenham Hotspur and has won nine of his ten games so far by putting Tottenham in first place in the Premiership League. Fucking great job if you ask me. However, will it last?

Postecoglou was already experienced when he led Brisbane Roar to the A-League title in 2011 and 2012, and then delivered the 2015 Asian Cup for Australia, before moving to Japan to make Yokohama F. Marinos champions for the first time since 2004. Then came the call from Celtic, a league title in his first season and a potential domestic treble. Just as impressive is the style of play and fearlessness he encourages, and the way he conducts himself. To say he has won over fans in half of Glasgow would be an understatement.

Postecoglou is a man who does things his own way but not even the 2015 Asian coach of the year can change how modern European football works. There is a limit to what anyone can do in Scotland, even at a huge club like Celtic and even with top-class recruitment. If the ambition is to work at the highest level of world football, the Premier League offers the best opportunity with cashed-up clubs, elite fellow coaches and worldwide attention. He won the Scottish Cup for Celtic in 2022/23.

His average term as a coach is 2.61 years per team, and preferred formation is 4-3-3 attacking while starting his coaching management status in 1995 in managing South Melbourne (See link for career statistics).

After early successes as a head coach with South Melbourne in the late 1990s, Postecoglou’s rise has been something of a slow-burner. Back-to-back titles with Brisbane Roar in 2011 and 2012 cemented his reputation as a top-class coach in his native Australia, and that was only enhanced in a four-year spell as head coach of the national team.

When he arrived in Glasgow for Celtic Rangers, he brought a positive mentality and a fast, attacking style of play. He had a strong track record of developing players and an understanding of the importance of the link from the academy; everything that is important to the club. Ange brought five trophies to the club.

During his two seasons at Celtic, Postecoglou used a similar 4-3-3 to that which he used at Yokohama, again using very wide wingers in the front line. The aim was to create space in the inside channels for a full-back or central midfielder to exploit. In his first season, it wasn’t uncommon to see the full-backs dribble diagonally into these spaces, with the wingers threatening the space in behind. The number eights would then adapt their position accordingly.

For most games at Celtic, certainly in domestic competitions, Postecoglou preferred a high press and counter-press. Some games, most notably in Europe, called for a more consistent and reserved defensive block. From their 4-3-3 shape, Celtic would often convert into a 4-5-1, with at least one of the number eights working back to cover alongside the single pivot. (See link for more on strategy)

As a final note, Ange reminds me of Brazil’s Palmeiras FC and Portuguese coach/manager Abel Ferreira with his vested career. Abel also finished his playing career because of a knee injury, is twenty years younger and has also had a remarkable management career. Perhaps we will also be seeing him managing a UK Premiership club in the future!

Have a great day!

Prof. Carl Boniface

Vocabulary builder:

Barclays = Between 2001 and 2016 Barclays enjoyed a great partnership with the Premier League as their title sponsor, and banker. They continued the relationship by agreeing to become the Banking Partner of the Premier League which continues to this day.

Vested (v) entrusted, assigned, bestowed, consigned, conferred

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