Knutsen gave us a glimpse of how Postecoglou’s side could have developed in Europe

Ange Postecoglou’s time at Celtic will undoubtedly be looked back on as a success, domestically at least. There may be a more critical view, however, on his European travails throughout his two-year tenure.

Ange’s first taste of European football came just 40 days after he was appointed when Celtic lined up against Danish side FC Midtjylland in the second qualifying round of the Champions League.

It was Ange’s first competitive match as Celtic boss, and the first competitive home game in 16 months that fans could attend inside Celtic Park.

The 9,000 fans lucky enough to get into the stadium saw Ange lining up with what was essentially a makeshift side: Barkas, Ralston, Taylor, Welsh, Bitton, McGregor, Soro, Turnbull, Christie, Edouard & Abada.

Despite the deficiencies of the squad inherited by Postecoglou, we did manage to make the breakthrough when 19-year-old debutant Liel Abada opened the scoring in 39 minutes. Our joy was short-lived, however, as Nir Bitton foolishly got himself sent off just five minutes later.

We hadn’t strengthened sufficiently and didn’t have the depth or quality to overcome the Danes, despite taking the lead in both legs. Although Midtjylland squeezed through 3-2 on aggregate after extra time in the MCH Arena, European football was clearly a bridge too far this early in Ange’s tenure. 


Ange’s first European campaign did not end there, however, as the Midtjylland defeat resulted in Celtic dropping into the qualifying rounds of the Europa League, where they overcame FK Jablonec (Czech Republic) and AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands) before joining Group G alongside Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), Real Betis (Spain) and recent foes Ferencvaros (Hungary).

Much like the Champions League Group campaign that followed in season two, fine margins resulted in Ange’s side being nearly-men over these six games. Losing out on second place in the group to Real Betis by a single point, Ange could look to being 2-0 up against them after half-an-hour in Spain, or being 2-1 up against Bayer Leverkusen in Germany with just eight minutes to go… Ultimately our defensive frailties were exposed as we lost both games, 4-3 and 3-2 respectively.

But these half-dozen games were all about gaining experience for a side who were still gelling. We didn’t expect much from our first-season European exploits under Ange, but our three wins and two narrow defeats gave fans some confidence going into our third European competition of the season – The Europa Conference League.



Although the 4-0 reverse at home to Bayer Leverkusen had been a disappointing night, there were elements of Celtic’s play that evening that gave us some cause for confidence. The same could not be said, however for the two-legged affair with the Norwegians, Bodø/Glimt.

The name of Kjetil Knutsen has been much-discussed since the departure of Ange Postecoglou three days ago, and it was the Norwegian who masterminded a comprehensive 5-1 defeat of Celtic to end Ange’s hopes of European progression in his first season.

This is not with hindsight (just check out ACSOM’s post-match Bulletins HERE & HERE), but Knutsen’s style of play really impressed us over both legs. The way his defenders played out from the back and constantly pressed Celtic on to the back foot, it was said on the night that they played ‘Ange-Ball’ better than we could. Knutsen’s Bodø/Glimt side gave us a glimpse of what Postecoglou’s team could develop into, but it looked as though it was going to take another two or three European campaigns to get to that level.

Prior to overcoming Postecoglou’s Celtic, Knutsen’s side had already famously trounced eventual winners Roma 6-1 in their group encounter in Norway, following that up in Italy with a 2-2 draw with Jose Mourinho’s charges. Eventually falling at the quarter-final stage when Mourinho exacted some revenge with a 5-2 reverse, Bodø/Glimt – and specifically Kjetil Knutsen – had announced themselves to a wider European football audience.

It is no surprise then that Knutsen has been linked with replacing Postecoglou in the Celtic hot-seat, but the timing may work against any proposed deal. The Norwegian league, Eliteserien, concludes in December and, with Knutsen’s side sitting pretty at the top of the division, the 54-year-old has already stated (when responding to supposed Ajax interest) that his sole focus is on the job at hand.


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