Ange Postecoglou has officially left his post as Yokohama F. Marinos head coach on Thursday. The Australian is heading to Europe, where he is set to become the new head coach of Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic.
Postecoglou’s last ever match as Yokohama head coach may end in a humiliating exit from the 2021 Emperor’s Cup thanks to a second round penalty shootout defeat at the hands of fourth-tier side Honda FC on Wednesday, but the Aussie will always be regarded highly by those associated with the Nissan Stadium-based club.
It was underneath Postecoglou’s reign that Yokohama managed to revive themselves as one of the major powers of Japanese football. Postecoglou managed to end a 15-year long league title drought by winning Yokohama the 2019 J.League 1 title, establishing a swashbuckling offensive style of play that won him plaudits. The Australian managed to grab a struggling Yokohama by the scruff of their necks in 2018 before transforming them into worthy champions a year later.
And Yokohama weren’t the only ones who had their fortunes changed thanks to Postecoglou’s fearless tiki-taka tactics. The Australia national team managed to clinch the 2015 AFC Asian Cup under his tutelage. Postecoglou’s one-year tenure at Melbourne Victory set the foundations for the Big V’s most successful period underneath Kevin Muscat, with Postecoglou preceding the successes with a 3rd placed finish in the 2012/13 A-League regular season and a semifinal appearance in that season’s Finals series.
Last but not least, who can forget Brisbane Roar’s 36-match unbeaten run that was achieved underneath Postecoglou’s watchful eye that spanned from 2010/11 to 2011/12?
Despite these achievements, Postecoglou is a relative unknown outside of Asia. A fair few Celtic fans had their eyebrows raised and heads scratched as news began to broke out that their club were linked with the Australian tactician. Celtic had just been rejected by Eddie Howe, their number one target for that vacant head coach position, and now the Bhoys are in talks with someone who’s very much untested in European football?
Not helping Postecoglou’s cause were his lack of any UEFA certification as well as the failure of his countrymen in their European jobs. Postecoglou’s protege Muscat was sacked by Belgian side Sint-Truiden after just six months, while Tony Popovic’s tenure with both Kardemir Karabukspor in Turkey and Xanthi FC in Greece were unsuccessful.
However, Postecoglou could find solace that he’s not the first head coach to made that jump from the J1 to European football.
From 1995 to 1996 Arsene Wenger took charge of Nagoya Grampus prior to taking up the job at Arsenal, however unlike Postecoglou, Wenger was already a renowned name in Europe thanks to his exploits with AS Monaco in the late 80s and early 90s. However that lack of renownedness can work in Postecoglou’s favor as he could freely implement the same tactics that won him praises in Asia within the more competitive setting of Europe without any pressure.
Postecoglou’s tactics usually require a wealth of attacking talent to pull them off successfully and he would be pleased that Celtic already has said talent in Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths. They have the potential to become Postecoglou’s personal executioners up front, following in the footsteps of Besart Berisha (Brisbane Roar), Marco Rojas (Melbourne Victory), James Troisi (Australia), and the devastating duo of Marcos Junior and Teruhito Nakagawa (Yokohama F. Marinos).
Celtic are heading into uncharted territory with Postecoglou’s appointment and indeed the club is in a period of transition. Longtime captain Scott Brown is off to Aberdeen while key figures within Celtic’s leadership are being replaced. With city rivals Glasgow Rangers looking more and more ominous underneath Steven Gerrard, the Bhoys are pulling out all the stops that they could to reclaim the league title that they’ve lost to the Gers last season.
With Postecoglou’s appointment now made official, Asian and Australian football observers are crossing their fingers anxiously, with hopes that a highly-rated head coach from within the region would do well in the hustle and bustle of European football. Likewise Celtic fans are treating this appointment with caution – appointing a relative unknown to duke it out with Gerrard’s Rangers is quite a gamble but considering Postecoglou’s track record in Asia and Australia, they’re hoping that this gamble will be worth it in the long run.
Should Postecoglou succeed, it is possible that he will immortalize himself in European football the same way Arsene Wenger did all those years ago.