football news 2022, Celtic FC, SPFL 2022, Ange Postecoglou, fixtures, how to watch, transfers, Celtic vs Aberdeen, Aaron Mooy – Michmutters

football news 2022, Celtic FC, SPFL 2022, Ange Postecoglou, fixtures, how to watch, transfers, Celtic vs Aberdeen, Aaron Mooy

“If you wind the clock back 12 months ago,” Ange Postecoglou said today, “it was pretty chaotic.”

That is something of an understatement. The Australian mastermind had been plucked from Japan to take over Scottish giants Celtic. It was a shock move, and one widely slammed by pundits, rivals, and even some fans of the Glasgow club. He arrived with limited experience in European football and therefore a deeply undervalued global reputation. He took over a club in shambles, particularly a hodgepodge squad in need of overhaul. No wonder his first month of it was ‘pretty chaotic.’

Having been handed the reins just days before pre-season games kicked off, Postecoglou endured a frenetic few weeks in the transfer market, with well over a dozen player movements. After an equally tricky start to the season, Postecoglou proved the doubters wrong to guide Celtic to a league and league cup double. Out of the chaos, Postecoglou created magic.

The new season begins on Monday morning (1.30am AEST) – and things are very different at Celtic.

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Postecoglou and Mooy with the Socceroos in 2017.
Postecoglou and Mooy with the Socceroos in 2017.Source: Getty Images

12 months on, Postecoglou’s transfer dealings this time around were totally different. Instead of a last-minute transfer flurry that stretched to a manic deadline day, Postecoglou quickly and smartly did his transfer business early in the window.

The Hoops have picked up keeper Benjamin Siegrist, left-back Alexandro Bernabei, centre-back Moritz Jenz and Australian midfielder Aaron Mooy.

Arguably even more importantly has been converting last season’s loan stars Jota and Cameron Carter-Vickers into permanent signings, despite plenty of competition from elsewhere.

“We’re happy with the ones we’ve brought in,” Postecoglou said. “There were some areas I felt we needed strengthening from a squad perspective: Goalkeeper, left-back, centre-back and midfield were definitely areas that I wanted to make us a bit stronger and more robust and it’s great we’ve done that.

“Re-signing Jota and Cameron on permanent deals was also an important part of what we are trying to build. I’m pleased with where we’re at, but there’s still four weeks of the window open and we’ll still be active and agile to see where we can strengthen.”

That’s not the only big change Postecoglou has wrought. Socceroos legend Harry Kewell has also joined the Postecoglou project as first-team coach, having been out of work since his axing him as Barnet manager last September.

It marks another massive shift in the landscape from 12 months ago, when Postecoglou was barred from bringing in his own staff, and instead inherited assistants from the previous manager.

Pre-season has been very different, too. Rather than last-minute chaos, Postecoglou says it has been “meticulously planned” – and the results have followed. Celtic has gone unbeaten, including a hugely impressive win over recently-relegated Premier League side Norwich.

It’s a far cry from last year’s topsy-turvy opening weeks, which included a brutal baptism of fire in Champions League qualifiers. The Hoops have automatically qualified for Europe’s top competition this time around, and Postecoglou will be desperate to make amends for the team’s failure in continental competitions last season.

With a settled squad and reorganized backroom, a board and fans firmly on his side, no wonder Postecoglou says “we’re in a different space.”

“To be honest, [going in as champions] isn’t really something that’s in consciousness,” he said. “It’s more that we’re in a different space in terms of where we’re at as a club and a squad.

“If you wind the clock back 12 months ago, it was pretty chaotic. We were going into the first games with players in quarantine, and others flying in, others we hadn’t even signed yet, so pre-season was pretty frantic, with Champions League qualifiers also.

“This is a different feel going into this year. The fact that we’re champions I don’t think is the biggest difference. The biggest difference is just that we’re more settled … Going into the first game is a totally different outlook.”

Now, he added, it’s time to get down to “the real stuff”: the job of defending the league title against bitter Old Firm rivals Rangers.

Celtic’s title defense begins in front of a sellout crowd at home against Aberdeen on Sunday (Monday 1:30am AEST).

“We just want to make sure we lay down a really strong marker for the year ahead,” Postecoglou said.

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Postecoglou celebrating the title win last season.Source: Getty Images

Before that game, however, captain Callum McGregor will unfurl the championship flag – a moment that probably seemed an impossible dream a year ago. Celtic had been battered the season before by Rangers, with a humiliating 25-point gap between first and second on the ladder. The squad was shattered, both in terms of confidence and the make-up of the roster.

Postecoglou completely renovated the team and revived the mood at Celtic Park, winning over his many doubters along the way.

Things are very different now, but some things remain the same. He still has his biting wit and blunt approach to the media – like when he was asked the rather dismissive question about whether a year ‘immersed in Scottish football’ has helped him understand the ‘landscape’ of the competition.

Postecoglou didn’t hold back, declaring: “Yeah, considering everyone didn’t think I knew anything at the start of last year, I think I’m in a better place, mate. I’m as well prepared as I always am.”

Another thing hasn’t changed: Postecoglou’s fervid drive for success.

That means last season’s success is forgotten. “We have already put it in the history books, from the first day of pre-season,” he stated.

The goal is clear: become even better than before.

“I’ve stated pretty clearly, we’ve got to be better this year than we were last year if we want to repeat the success. We can’t just roll out there and play at the levels we did last year. It was enough to get us over the line and bring us the success we wanted. But we want to better this year.”

Postecoglou celebrating a 7-0 thrashing last season.Source: Getty Images

As he similarly said earlier in the month: “It’s the same all the time. Every new season. I keep saying that to the players. There’s the possibility to be part of something special.”

“I didn’t start last year thinking: This is going to be a tough grind. I started last year thinking: Let’s see what we can do and can we create something special?”

Last year was something special. With a better pre-season, a settled squad, and his drive from him still as strong as ever, this year might just be even greater.

“We’ll enjoy the ride. We had our ups and downs last year but we stuck together and as I always say, it’s how you feel after you get off the rollercoaster that’s important.

“I think most people enjoyed the ride last year. I’m sure we’ll have our ups and downs again this year, but hopefully at the end everyone gets off and says ‘that was a hell of a ride, let’s go again’.”

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