Speaking at today’s press conference ahead of Sunday’s league game with St. Mirren, Ange Postecoglou confirmed that he has a full-strength squad at his disposal, with the exception of backup keeper Benji Siegrist who is expected back in training on Monday.
Confirming that the players were given Monday off to celebrate their League Cup success last weekend, the manager highlighted the competitiveness of training during the past week as the team focussed their attentions on St. Mirren.
“Training this week has been super competitive. The one thing a game like last week leaves you with is they all want to be a part of it and they don’t want to miss out next time or miss out on something that could give them some special times.
Irrespective of who were playing this weekend I had no doubt that the players would come back motivated and the training has been super competitive this week.”
As always, Ange responded with respect when asked about the challenge that Sunday’s opponents will present, commenting that St. Mirren have had a strong season with strong home form that has given them an edge over sides around them. A nod, no doubt, to that game from earlier in the season.
“Like every other game for us it comes down to the way we deal with the challenge before us and come Sunday we’ll be ready for that.”
Aside from discussing the weekends game, Ange was also quizzed on what makes February’s Player of the Month Reo Hatate tick, with the answer providing some interesting insights into the player and the squad as a whole.
Not for the first time, Ange spoke about the importance of players having the right mindset to succeed within the environment he is creating at Celtic Park, an environment that encourages hard work and a desire to improve constantly.
“He (Reo) is very determined to be the best footballer he can be but he’s not on his own though. I think this whole group has those characteristics and that helps somebody like Reo because he’s come into an environment that suits that mindset. He’s got like-minded people around him who also want to be the best they can be.”
“The group collectively is very ambitious, the coaching staff is ambitious, and for guys like Reo they can thrive within that. It’s fair to say that he made an impact straight away coming in last January but there was no doubt that the first 6 months was always going to be tough for him coming off the back of a J-League season. But after a good pre-season for him, he’s been really strong all year and he’s found another level since the WC break and I believe there’s probably another couple of levels in him at least. Knowing Reo and his mindset he’ll definitely get there.”
When asked how Reo has gone about improving his numbers in the final third since the World Cup, the manager responded by again pointing to Hatate’s mindset and desire to improve:
“He’s constantly working at aspects of his game that he thinks he needs to and the feedback he’s given; whatever that feedback is he takes it on board and works at it in training. There’s no magic formula, it’s just about hard work and he’s prepared to put that hard work in and receive the feedback in the right way (which is not the case with all players).”
With each passing week and press conference it becomes clearer that Ange is building something for the long-term, that he is not interested in finding quick fixes but rather in establishing and fostering a culture of success at the club.
To do that requires players with the correct characteristics and so far, the Australian has hit the mark more often than not with his recruitment.
“What we’ve tried to do is to create an environment where there is a real focus on what’s important for us, and what important for us – knowing the expectations of this football club – is that whatever the next game is, you’re at you’re best. You can’t be anything less than that.”
There is ambition and humility in those words. Mixed with passion and ability, it’s becoming a recipe for success.