Angel Postecoglou’s remarkable revolution changed the club for fearless Celtic youth – Kevin McKenna

THE reaction of some elements of our support following the midweek lottery draw in St Mirren suggests that medication may be needed soon. It was Celtic’s seventh game in less than three weeks and the only one they had failed to win. For most of those games, Celtic had to get rid of one of their first-choice strikers or substitutes.

This 20-day period saw us lift the first major trophy of the Postecoglou era and defeat one of the best teams in Spain with what was practically a reserve team. The fact that Real Betis also fielded an understaffed side misses the point. First of all, Celtic don’t win many games against Spanish opponents: it was only our eighth victory in almost 60 years. We lost 23 against Spanish teams. Second – and far more important – he provided an unequivocal statement from Postecoglou that his preferred method of playing football is being adopted at all levels of the club.

In just over six months, our Australian coach has revolutionized Celtic. You might have expected him to have his hands full just by building a first-team team capable of fighting for the title after the pandemic season collapse of last season. Youth development could wait.

However, it is clear that the manager has worked just as much with our marginal and junior players as with the first team. I have never seen so many Celtic youth team players being encouraged to play so freely and fearlessly. I have hazy memories of the Quality Street kids of Celtic in the late ’60s and early’ 70s effortlessly making their way into Celtic’s first team. Players such as Kenny Dalglish, David Hay, George Connelly, Lou Macari and Paul Wilson were gradually introduced over time. It was a luxury linked to belonging to one of the best teams in Europe.

Modern day expectations mean that young players are introduced to a much more difficult environment. Local players need to start playing faster and have an instant impact. Foreign paid Hollywood gamers will always have more time and opportunities to settle. Players like this have never been there to hamper the progress of Celtic’s young stars of the 60s and 70s.

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What Postecoglou is doing at all levels of Celtic is fascinating.

Granted, this season was always destined to look feverish. Stopping the Ten last season sounded like a fairytale, but it actually didn’t make sense. It would have been an achievement unworthy of any comment beyond Scotland, aside from a few cynical remarks from UK television experts.

This season is much more important because – for the first time in over a decade – the SPL winners are granted an automatic entry into the Champions League group stage.

Being six points behind the Rangers with more than half of the league schedule remaining is no cause for alarm. And especially when three of our four games against Rangers remain exceptional (including two at home).

In six months, Postecoglou answered all the questions put to it. He has also developed a knack for knowing what will be next. He very rarely had his first favorite and benchmark team at his disposal. On those few occasions however, when this did happen, Celtic made a valid case to be Scotland’s best team. What else; they play without fear.

This was evident at Ibrox when, still developing as a team, they faced off against the best Rangers team of the past decade and 50,000 unfriendly fans and produced a display that should have ensured at least one draw. Postecoglou knows that with his first team which is offered to him and the competition for the restored places, Celtic has plenty to ensure this championship.