Celtic’s Ange Postecoglou era begins

It’s starting to seem very real for Ange Postecoglou at Celtic now that he’s out of quarantine and into preseason training.

On July 21, the former Australian national team coach will lead Celtic into Europe for the first time when they face FC Midtjylland, the club of Socceroo Awer Mabil, at Celtic Park, with the return leg slated for the MCH Arena on July 29.

For a man who has already coached against Chile, the Netherlands, and Spain at a World Cup, the notion of going up against some of Europe’s most powerful clubs probably didn’t hold the same fear factor for him as it did for others.

But, as Postecoglou highlighted in a video chat with a group of Australian media, it was a pivotal event over 20 years ago as the coach of South Melbourne that gave him a unique perspective on the quest of the grandest stages.

“For me, [playing in certain competitions is] not something that has driven me,” he said. “Those kinds of things have happened because I’ve done what I can to the best of my ability.

“The specialness is me managing this football club. That’s it. The fact that I am now manager of one of the world’s most famous football clubs, that’s where the draw is and where the excitement is. Where that takes us as a football club and the games we play and special nights we have are a circumstance of me having the opportunity and responsibility to manage this football club.

“I’m sure I’m in for some unbelievably special nights in Europe or in the league here and I’ll take it in as I always have, with everything I’ve done in the past.

“Whether that was at South Melbourne playing against Manchester United [at the Club World Cup] in Brazil — it was 21 years ago, which is surreal. When you’re standing in the Maracana as a 34-year-old with Sir Alex Ferguson in the opposite dugout you kind of realise then the magic of football.

“I’ve never really then had targets after that; of saying I want to coach at that tournament or at that level. I’ve just said that if I keep doing what I’ve done, with a bit of luck, I’ll be able to experience some special things.

“I’ve got no doubt being Celtic’s football manager is going to create some more of those special moments.”