It has been a memorable season already for Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic side, and, with a world-record eighth treble still to play for, it is far from over.
Celtic are due to face Inverness in the Scottish Cup final this weekend and there is a good chance we will once again be celebrating a campaign of domestic dominance come Saturday night.
Yet, all the media headlines this week are being dominated by “Ange to Spurs” rhetoric. Should it really come as any surprise? The tagline is already saved in the article templates of news sources all over the country, ready to insert a managerless EPL club’s name into the mix to add to those used in drafts 1-4: Southampton, Everton, Chelsea and Leeds United…
Draft 5 includes the name of Tottenham Hotspur, which has created reactions ranging from mild discomfort to hysteria amongst the Celtic faithful.
Yet, Ange remains at Celtic, organising and focusing his side for one more 90 minutes that could etch their names into the history books.
These Spurs rumours are enduring, though, but with very little to add weight to the straplines behind the odds. I read one article yesterday, heavily pilfered from another source, which contained nothing of any substance. Yet, both pieces were written in a style that suggested the reporters were somehow ‘in the know’. These are the same scribes who told us Eddie Howe had agreed to succeed Neil Lennon as Celtic manager, remember, so in reality they know as much as you and I.
We are left as Celtic fans to search for the facts, the quotes, the pros, and the cons in the vain hope that, once all these elements are added to the mix, the result is that Ange stays in Glasgow for at least another season.
Back in February, the man himself responded to the constant speculation of his departure by declaring:
“You will be surprised how long I am here.”
It is a fairly conclusive retort to the constant barrage of press conference requests for an update on his purported upcoming English Premiership dalliance. But that response was four months ago. Not this week, not in response to the Spurs link, and it has many Celtic fans feeling a little uneasy as we prepare to stand on the shoulders of giants in an era-defining Hampden contest.
I have heard many asking why Ange would leave Celtic for Spurs?
Well, there are the obvious factors that Celtic quite simply cannot compete with:
A life-transforming salary increase
Tottenham’s most recent gaffer, Antonio Conte, was offered an 18-month deal worth a cool £30m in 2021. Celtic pay managers an annual salary ranging between £2m – £2.5m.
A huge budget hike
The club who finished bottom of the EPL in 2021/22, Norwich City, received prize money of £100.3m. They also received a parachute payment of £40.9m. If Celtic win the treble, our entire domestic prize-pot for completing Scottish football will be £4.8m.
The EPL platform
It’s the richest soccer league in the world. It can elevate the brand of clubs and the profiles of players and managers to stratospheric levels. As fans of Scottish football, we know our place in the box-office food chain. The EPL is akin to peak WWF with Hulkamania and The Ultimate Warrior, whilst the SPFL is offering Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy on Saturday TV. There really is no contest.
In the last decade, Spurs have reached a Champions League final. They have also made it to the groups once and the last 16 three times. All of this whilst winning absolutely zero trophies in England.
Yes, it feels like the game is rigged, but Daniel Levy can offer Ange a key to unlock the Champions League door. Not next season, of course, because Spurs failed to qualify for Europe. But over the last decade, they have achieved something tangible at that elite level every couple of years. That fact will not be lost on the ever-ambitious Ange.
Neither will the challenge of Champions League football with a club who have accepted him as something of a messianic figure since he arrived from Japan a little under two years ago. Ange got us there again virtue of a dominating league win, and may have a burning desire to ‘finish the job’ before turning his attentions to the bright lights of the EPL. But will that be enough to keep him in the Celtic Park dugout, for next season at least?
These are the questions swimming around every Celtic supporter’s head this week, a persistent distraction when we should be concentrating on making history.
We have constantly heard the mantra, ‘In Ange We Trust’, and the boss has given us no reason to disbelieve anything he has ever said to us that made us buy in to him, as much as he has bought into our football club.
Let’s not judge Ange on what other managers would do – have done – as soon as an EPL club has shown their hand. Granted, it is a tall order for us to expect him to stay if he is offered the kind of deal Spurs could concoct in a heartbeat, but Celtic is a unique club that Ange has immersed himself and his family in. We are not a fashion accessory or billionaire club’s plaything, but a club of substance and success.
There is an opportunity of more success in the post this Saturday, and Celtic fans will be pining for a statement from the club following the Scottish Cup final that will allay all our fears.
At least until the next EPL club parts company with their manager.
PAUL JOHN DYKES