ANGE Postecoglou has confessed that he is not looking forward to Celtic playing in front of crowds of just 500 fans – but stressed they will not let any disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic to disrupt their bid to land the Scottish title.

The Greek-Australian coach was, like so many in the national game, disappointed when he learned that coronavirus restrictions had been increased by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon due to the rising infection rates.

Outdoor events will be limited to just 500 people for three weeks from Boxing Day in an attempt to halt the spread of the Omicron variant - which now accounts for 62.9 per cent of all cases across the country.

Celtic, Hibernian and Motherwell have all requested the winter break is brought forward so that there is no cap on the number of spectators who are allowed through the turnstiles – but St Mirren have had their request for tonight’s game to be postponed called off by the SPFL.  

Postecoglou admitted that, having played behind closed doors in Japan during his time in charge of Yokohama F Marinos, he is not relishing the prospect of supporters only being allowed into grounds in small numbers. 

“I didn’t enjoy the football in empty stadiums,” he said. “To me, it was a different game with a different feel. For the players it was a different environment too and I didn’t enjoy it at all, to be honest.

“I know the games are still going on but for me, they lose a bit of essence when supporters aren’t there. It was a tough grind and we did it for almost a whole season. It was tough. But this is just what we are dealing with right now.

“As a manager I could never have envisaged dealing with the stuff I have these past two years. But that’s life. You are forced to face and confront things you would never have expected to. We just have to overcome what is before us and keep moving on.”

Postecoglou added: “With all of these things, we just have to follow the set guidelines. They are not designed for one particular purpose, they are just the rules and all of us could have to deal with them at some point.

“We just hope to get through this period without any of our own interruptions, over and above our injuries. We will follow the guidelines and if the game is to be played, we will play it. If not, we won’t.”

Postecoglou, whose side can move to within four points of Premiership leaders Rangers with a victory this evening, admitted that he felt sorry for his opposite number Jim Goodwin. But he is still expecting a difficult match.

“It’s tough for Jim and St Mirren,” he said. “That’s the challenge we are all facing. You are tested on a daily basis now and part of the daily schedule is to hold your breath until results come in. It’s just the way of the world right now, but it’s definitely a tough one.

“This could affect any one of us. You saw Dundee United were fairly affected on the weekend. This football club had a history with it last year. So I don’t know how much sympathy means, and whether there was a lot of sympathy for Celtic last year? 

“I do feel for St Mirren and Jim. It’s a tough one and as managers we have to deal with these things, whether it’s Covid or injuries. He will put his team out on Wednesday night and make it difficult for us. It will be a tough game.”

Potecoglou and his players celebrated after beating Hibernian 2-1 at Hampden on Sunday to win the Premier Sports Cup final – but the Parkhead manager is well aware they have to concentrate fully on beating St Mirren and maintaining their Premiership challenge. 

“We hope that winning on Sunday whets the appetite and now we go again, starting with St Mirren,” he said. “Players have been good in that respect.

“I told them after the game that they needed to enjoy it and that they should do their own reflections, and embrace their achievement.

“I got a glass of scotch in. It was a nice quiet evening with my wife. You do take a couple of hours to reflect on winning the cup. I know how hard everyone has worked for it and trophies aren’t easy things to come by.

“You take that time to reflect, but it’s more about what it does for other people. I take joy from watching other people celebrate and feeling like you have contributed to it. There was a lot of emotion involved at the end of the game.

“But come Tuesday, it was always about the next task and that is the next league game. You have to switch focus and get back to what we have been doing all along. We also have to understand what has brought us the success so far. It’s been a collective effort and we will need that again to regroup and keep going.”