ANGE Postecoglou bristled at the suggestion Tynecastle provided his Celtic baptism. What isn’t up for debate, though, was the reaction as the Greek-Australian got off to a losing start on the opening night of the league campaign with suggestions that he was out of his depth. 

On the back of a losing Champions League challenge and with a squad in disarray, Celtic as a club looked still to be cast adrift following the chaos and unravelling of the doomed ten-in-a-row campaign. And yet it was Tynecastle where Celtic were afforded the first glimpse of Kyogo Furuhashi who had barely digested his inaugural team lunch than he found himself sitting on the Gorgie bench. 

There has been a particular trinity this term between Celtic, Postecoglou and Furuhashi and redemption has been swift. The first trophy of the season has been banked and along the way there has been a harmonising within the club with the support firmly singing from the straight-talking Postecoglou hymn sheet.  

If there has been a stirring within Celtic this week given the immediate impact of Reo Hatate and Daizen Maeda coupled with the gap at the top coming down to four points, there is a feeling it will be put to the test on Wednesday night as Postecoglou returns to Tynecastle. 

“I wouldn’t call it my baptism,” he said with regards to that opening game of the season. “I had already been baptised by then, we had had a couple of Champions League games. But obviously it was a disappointing start to the league season for us. 

“We played okay and certainly did enough in the game to get a result out of it but not winning wasn’t a great way to start off our campaign. At the same time, I do remember it was in the middle of a pretty hectic period for us. 

“I think Kyogo had just arrived at lunchtime that day. He had lunch with the boys and then I put him on the bench. Carl Starfelt had only been in a couple of days and just joined us. It was a tumultuous time for us and but we were disappointed not to start the season better than we did. 

“Things have changed a fair bit. Back then we were still putting a team together and since we have certainly developed the squad. Since the break there, with the players we have signed, we have got a stronger squad and, more importantly, a more settled squad. I think players are a lot more settled and know how we want to play our football a lot better. 

“Our football is constantly improving which is great and over the last two or three months we have been consistent. We are in a good space while knowing we need to keep improving.” 

Celtic’s optimism will be short lived without piecing together a winning sequence of games, imperative if they are to eat into Rangers’ lead at the top – and get inside the heads of the Ibrox side in a way they failed to do last term. The teams will meet next midweek at Celtic Park in the second derby of the season, a game that could be fundamental to how the latter half of the season shapes up.  

Before that there are games against Hearts and Dundee United to negotiate to ensure that there is momentum and pressure around that meeting regardless of personnel available. On the back of what has been an efficient transfer window with five new players arriving there is depth and quality as Postecoglou’s philosophy takes shape. 

And the Greek-Australian expects that any new arrivals are welcomed by the squad rather than being perceived as a threat. 

“The whole idea is to build a strong squad,” he said. “We have competition in midfield but also up front and at the back. That is what we want, we want an environment where guys are getting challenged every day and I think that is what the players want. 

“Sometimes players get a bit insecure if you bring good players in, but what I think is that the best players, the ones who want to be successful, welcome new players because it challenges them and it increases their chance of success. 

“The environment is really good and all the guys have embraced the new arrivals. 

“As a manager the worst thing that can happen is you bring in new players and the others don’t think they are up to the same level. Because then they think why did you bring them in? I think the one we have brought in are contributing already and the guys can see that and that is what they want. 

“They want to be challenged every day because if you just want to be comfortable you are not going to be successful. Certainly not at this football club.” 

There will be a few familiar faces on Wednesday night in Cammy Devlin and Nathaniel Atkinson. Overlooked by Australian manager Graham Arnott they are available to play against Celtic. Devlin spoke highly of Postecoglou in a recent interview with a Sydney newspaper and complimented him on how he has conducted himself since he arrived in Glasgow. 

“I could introduce Cam to a few people who probably don’t like me!” joked the Celtic manager. “Nah, he is a good lad and a good player, they also have Nathaniel Atkinson who I know from Melbourne, and I am super pleased for them. 

“They are Aussies and I have followed their careers pretty closely. They are good young players and good young men as well. They are in a great environment. With a good club and I think this league is good for them and I am happy they are getting the opportunity. 

“Hearts are going really well so I expect Wednesday to be a really good game. They are having a good season. They have been very consistent, not too many dips I can remember, and I think that has been reflected in their results and their performances. They will want to keep doing well and that is the challenge for them.” 

Celtic’s challenge is just as clear.