Getting over Ange and looking to a positive future

A week is a long time in football.  This time last week we were preparing for the game that would see Celtic claim a world record 8th domestic treble.  We also had a manager; albeit with one foot already out the door.

Fast forward seven days.  The world record 8th domestic treble was secured thanks to a comfortable 3-1 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and Ange has confirmed the truth we didn’t want to believe by taking on the challenge of managing Tottenham Hotspur.

Up until the last days of Ange’s reign at Celtic Park, I allowed my heart to rule my head.  Deep down I always knew the opportunity to manage one of English football’s fallen giants and the challenge that comes with it would be too much for someone like Ange to turn down.  He thrives on a challenge, the bigger the better.  You only need to look at the size of the task that faced him when he walked in through Parkhead’s gates two summers ago.

Despite that gnawing realism at the back of my mind, I tried my best to push it down because I simply didn’t want to accept that the age of Age was coming to an end.  In two short years, he had given us our club back and restored pride lost during the fateful 10-in-a-row season.

Coming to terms with a world without Ange

However, sitting tonight, and putting my thoughts down on paper, I realise that I’ve already come to terms with Ange’s departure.  I love Ange for everything he did for our club over the past two seasons and wish we could have squeezed another 12 months out of him.  A final 12 months to see his project through to completion.

But it wasn’t to be.  The lure of the richest league in the world and a life-changing sum of money has proven too strong to resist.  And let’s face it, we’d all leave our current employers if offered 10 times our current salaries.  I won’t hold that against him, just like I did not hold it against Kieran Tierney when he left to join Arsenal.

What stings about Ange leaving is the hope I had that he might want to hang around and have another shot at European football before making the inevitable move south.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, but Celtic will go on regardless of Ange, to coin his phrase, “We Never Stop”.

However, the reality forced upon us by Ange’s departure is that Celtic’s place in the food chain of European football means that we will lose players and managers ahead of time.  Ange himself warned us not to get “too attached to your heroes”.

We should take it as a compliment that Spurs class our (now former) manager in the same bracket as elite managers such as Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte; we would if they wanted to sign Kyogo, for example, to replace Harry Kane – although, for the record, I don’t want that to happen.

Embracing Celtic’s place in the European football landscape

Sadly, Celtic is no longer the team it used to be in European terms.  To us fans, Celtic will always be the biggest club in the world, however, the reality is that football has moved on since our heyday of the 1960s and ‘70s.  Money is king these days, and while Celtic have lots of it in terms of Scottish football, we are no longer a big fish on the wider European scale.

Keeping our top talents, be they players or managers, is a harder task than ever before.  We can no longer compete with the financial muscle of sides in the Big 5 leagues in Europe when it comes to transfer fees and player/manager salaries.  It is a sad reflection of the modern game.

However, knowing that we no longer dine at the top table does not need to be a bad thing, and can be something we can use to our advantage as the last two years under Ange have proven.  There has been steady progress in European competition and the size and passion of the Celtic fanbase, not to mention the history attached to the club, make us a unique and attractive proposition to players and managers out to make a name for themselves.

Pathway to the Big 5 Leagues

It may not be something that we want to accept, but if we can embrace our place in European football’s food chain, Celtic has a golden opportunity to provide a pathway to the top 5 leagues for players and managers alike.

We have seen the likes of Jeremie Frimpong, Josip Juranovic, Odsonne Edouard, and Kris Ajer all leave to join clubs in the Big 5 in recent seasons.  There is a proven track record of Celtic being able to offer players a route to the top, and now Ange has shown it can be done at the managerial level as well.

Too often in the past, Celtic has been taken advantage of by players viewing the club as a stepping stone.  Now, however, it might be time for Celtic to use that position to our advantage and promote our ability to bridge a career gap.

Looking to a future without Ange

Whoever is chosen to replace Ange comes into a club on a good path.  The playing staff is strong and there is money to strengthen without the need to sell star assets.  Ambition is high both on and off the park, and if the new man can continue to progress the club in Europe as Ange had started to do, then we create a win-win scenario.

So long as Celtic continues to offer a progressive and winning platform, suitors will eye our top talents, but we should be doing the same to others to ensure that the club thrives beyond Ange and the next man.

The Age of Ange is over, and I am excited to see what is next.

Kevin McCluskie

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