When my delayed holiday to the UK from a previously locked Australia was finally cleared for February this year, one of the first things I did was lock in tickets for a Celtic game.
While I’ve always had a soft spot for the Hoops, the arrival of Ange Postecoglou at the Scottish club last year transformed my distant affections into a love in its own right.
From his enterprising days in the A-League Men and with the Socceroos, he’s been a coach I’ve followed closely and even followed to watch him when he was in Japan with Yokohama F. Marinos.
Postecoglou never fails to turn a club into a team that plays entertaining football and comes together like few others can. His teams are hard not to like and this Celtic outfit is no exception.
Despite his misgivings, the Australian manager quickly turned his dispirited side around by picking up early silverware and showing Rangers that defending their league title would not be easy this season.
My Celtic experience came on February 20 when the Hoops hosted Dundee in the Scottish Premiership. It was a first versus low matchup at the time, but I knew not to expect a routine win.
Having traveled north from Edinburgh as part of my UK trip, I jumped on a bus to Glasgow on the morning of the match and made the mistake of walking to Celtic Park with about a hour walk taking me and my girlfriend past more dodgy parts of town that reminded me of being home in Western Sydney.
But as we approached the stadium, the strong wind seemed to ease, the sideways rain briefly stopped and the frowns we had seen before on locals had now turned to smiles.
As I approached Celtic Park, I couldn’t resist buying a scarf from a local vendor and quickly settled on a Postecoglou scarf with the words ‘The Wild Colonial Bhoy’ – quite an apt description to be fair.
With Ange wrapped around my neck, we joined the small group of fans waiting for the team bus to arrive with Postecoglou one of the first out and quick to greet those of us foolish enough to arrive around 90 minutes earlier.
I arrived at Celtic Park 😍
—Joshua Thomas ⚽ (@Joshua_Thomas97) February 20, 2022
Upon entering the stadium, I was surprised by its steepness and a little annoyed by the massive posts that would obstruct some of my vision throughout the game.
As a stadium employee happily took a pre-match photo, he noted our frozen Australian bodies and joked that global warming had yet to hit Glasgow.
After a long wait in freezing conditions, kick-off drew nearer and I was warmed by the traditional pre-match anthem sung by the waiting fans and happily lifted my newly acquired scarf in the air.
When the lineups were announced, I couldn’t help but beam with patriotic pride when the biggest cheer was given to Postecoglou.
As the game got underway, it wasn’t hard to see why the fans warmed up to the Aussie so quickly. It wasted no time for Celtic to play free-flowing football that keeps your eyes glued to the action and distracts you from the otherwise grim playing conditions Glasgow are preparing – there was a 1C wind at kick-off. ‘mail.
Postecoglou’s fast-paced football is not without risk though and Dundee managed to open the scoring against the run of play in the first half from a free kick as the Hoops had to pay not to bury their chances . A Socceroos reality fan will remember this very well.
Rather than deflate the home fans, the goal simply saw the crowd push their side and the Postecoglou side wasted no time in responding with a quick brace from Giorgos Giakoumakis ensuring they headed in mid- time 2-1.
In full control, Celtic were once again stumbled as Dundee managed to equalize with another free-kick early in the second half.
The visitors were desperate for a point and sat deep in an attempt to absorb the pressure from Hoops.
It almost worked if not for a late winner who was just rewards for Celtic perseverance.
— SPFL (@spfl) February 22, 2022
Throughout the 90 minutes, I had a new appreciation for Scottish swearing as the fans seated behind us berated the referee and the opposition, but notably had no bad word to say about their new Australian coach. .
As the Celtic side cheered home support after the final whistle, Postecoglou did the same but from a more cautious distance.
Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Postecoglou over the past few years, it’s that it never lets you get that close – even if you’ve traveled halfway around the world to see his team play.