OH, how Rangers fans chuckled last summer when they learned that Celtic were considering appointing a little-known Greek-Australian who was working in Japan and had spent the vast majority of his career in the Southern Hemisphere as their new manager.

Ange who? Postewhat? The prospective move seemed to many of them like an act of madness by a club whose bid to complete 10-In-A-Row the previous season had unravelled following some dire recruitment. 

Bob Malcolm, though, did not share his fellow supporters’ amusement about the impending arrival of Ange Postecoglou.

The former Rangers defender cum midfielder only played under Celtic’s leftfield target briefly during his short spell with Brisbane Roar in 2009. But he had witnessed first hand what an excellent coach and ruthless character their preferred candidate was in that short time.

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And he had seen, after departing along with his former Ibrox team mates Charlie Miller and Craig Moore in a savage clear out, the remarkable not to mention improbable success that Postecoglou had gone on to enjoy in Queensland.

So Malcolm has been unsurprised at how his former manager has quickly transformed Celtic’s fortunes and is under no illusions about the magnitude of the challenge which Alloa, where he is now the assistant to his old mucker Barry Ferguson, face in a Scottish Cup fourth round tie at the Indodrill Stadium this evening. 

“Ange took over at Brisbane when they were rock bottom of the A League and had no money,” he said. “It was mainly kids’ football that he had been involved in the years before that. But he came in and changed everything. He won the Premiership and Championship double in his first full season.

“I was only there for a couple of months before coming back home. I didn’t really play. I broke my nose in his first game in charge and was out for a few weeks. But I could see he liked to attack and wanted his team to move the ball quickly.

“He certainly went on from there and did unbelievably well. He then took over the national team and did much the same thing. Most of the experienced Australia players had retired but he got them to the World Cup. Then he went to Japan and took over Yokohama F Marinos and won the J League.  

“Because Ange has worked over in the other side of the world for most of his career, few people over here had heard much about him when he was first linked with Celtic. It was a bit of a surprise. But he has got a good reputation in the global game. He has got them attacking and brought in quality.”

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An interview that Malcolm gave shortly after he parted company with Brisbane suggested that he had not entirely approved of Postecoglou’s methods – which he revealed had included banning his charges from laughing and smiling during training – but if there was ever any acrimony about how he was dealt with it is in the past. Time has clearly been a healer. 

“Ange was wanting to bring in younger players and at that point Craig, Charlie and myself were there,” he said. “I hold nothing against him. He wanted to go in a certain direction. That is what happens in football.

“I didn’t really have many dealings with him. I knew I was coming home. I just went in, trained and left. But I spoke to him a few times and he seemed a stand-up guy. I never had any cross words with him. Craig played under him and speaks very highly of him.”

Malcolm is acutely aware that he and Ferguson will not exactly be showered with praise by the sizeable Celtic support tonight due to their association with Rangers. “I don’t even know what to say about that,” he said. “I am sure we will be putting on the ear muffs at some point in the game. Listen, it is part and parcel of football. Some of our own fans have been giving us a bit of stick recently. You take it on the chin.”

He is looking forward to the glamour tie enormously. He always relished matches against the Parkhead club when he was at Ibrox and is keen to sample one from the technical area.

After a difficult League 1 season which has again been complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, he is pleased the Alloa players will get the chance to test themselves against the likes of Callum McGregor, Jota and Tom Rogic.

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“I have got good memories of the Old Firm games, I have got bad memories,” he said. “They were certainly the games you wanted to play in. It will be the same for our boys. They work hard all day and then train hard at night. This is their reward for that.

“Covid has been a bit of a nightmare to deal with to be honest. If one player tests positive the player he has been sitting near to in the dressing room has to isolate. Then when you get them back in training it takes them another two or three weeks to get fully fit. And part-time teams don’t have big squads. You have to go with kids who haven’t really been involved in the first team.

“But a lot can happen in the course of 90 minutes. It is a free hit for us. The expectation is all on Celtic. They will need to be up for it. Sometimes it can be harder to be focused on match against a small part-time side than one against Rangers. It is a cup game this weekend and hopefully it is end to end and the minnows come out on top.”

Bob Malcolm may not bear on grudges about how Ange Postecoglou treated him at Brisbane Roar. But if Alloa cause an upset against Celtic it will be sweet. “I will shake his hand and have a chat with him before the game,” he said. “Hopefully after the game I will shake his hand with a smile on my face.”

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