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Why the cup final coaching methods Ange Postecoglou developed Down Under will help Celtic shine at Hampden

ANGE Postecoglou has provided an insight into the unique coaching methods which he developed during his early managerial career in Australia – and outlined why he thinks they will enable Celtic to perform at their best in the Premier Sports Cup final today. 

The match against Hibernian at Hampden this afternoon will be the first competition decider that Postecoglou has been involved since moving to Scotland back in June.

But the experience will be nothing new to him.

The Greek-Australian first stepped at into the dugout at South Melbourne some 25 years ago and he went on to spend spells in charge at Whittlesea Zebras, Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory in his adopted homeland.

Leagues are decided in one-off matches, not by overall points tallies or on goal difference like in most countries, Down Under so he became accustomed to taking part in big games where silverware was on the line.

He also realised the benefit in getting his players to treat every fixture they took part in like a cup final regardless of what was at stake – and has retained that philosophy since moving on to manage Australia, Yokohama F Marinos and Celtic.

Postecoglou will be missing several key players against Hibs due to a lengthy injury list and may have to field inexperienced youngsters such as Ewan Henderson, Owen Moffat, Adam Montgomery and Liam Scales. However, he is hopeful his approach will stand his side in good stead and help to ensure they prevail. 

“In Australia, championships get decided in finals,” he said. “I won two as a player and four as a manager and they all got decided in a grand final or in a game. So I understand it. 

“Because of that, I have always tried to build teams in a game style that will stack up in big games. It may sound a little bit bizarre, but because that is how things got decided in Australia that is how I train my teams.

“So when the big game comes along our football stacks up, the way we prepare stacks up. Coming into this game hasn’t been any different here – the way we train every day, the way we talk, the way we plan ourselves is so we are ready for the big occasion.”

Postecoglou added: “It’s a big occasion. There’s no point trying to downplay it. I’ve never felt that’s worked for me with my players and staff, that it’s just another game.

“They will quickly work out when they walk out at Hampden on Sunday that it’s not just another game, it’s a big game. I don’t want them to fear that, I want them to embrace that.

“That’s the way I talk to them, everything’s on the line on Sunday and we’ve got to be at our best. Don’t shy away from that, embrace that. That’s how I prepare the team.”

Many of Postecoglou’s summer signings have excelled this season and endeared themselves to the Celtic support – Liel Abada, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Kyogo Furuhashi, Jota, Josip Juranovic and Carl Starfelt have all established themselves in the first team.

However, the Parkhead manager has admitted that he will  look to the more experienced members of his squad, individuals who have been involved in finals before and are no strangers to lifting silverware, to lead by example against Hibs. 

“Absolutely you call on that,” he said. “Whether it’s Cal (Callum McGregor), Tommy Rogic, Niro Bitton or James Forrest. you want these guys to help steer the other guys on what to expect. Joe Hart’s been in some pretty big games.

“But they all have to be ready for it because in big games there’s no place to hide, there will be no cover or shelter for any individual. Every player will be exposed. Both teams will be exposed and you have to stand up to it and that’s what I want my players to – to embrace that. If you are playing for the club, these are the games you want to play and excel in.”

Posteocoglou admitted that he felt for Jack Ross when his Hibs counterpart was sacked by the Easter Road club little over a week before the cup final following a disappointing run of form. But he anticipates the capital outfit will be every bit as dangerous with caretaker David Gray at the helm.

“Our existence as managers, well, not existence because nobody kills us, but our role is dependent on results,” he said. “We all realise that at some point if things don’t go well then potentially we could be removed. But I do feel for Jack. He has got a team to a final, but is not there. It was so close.

“In terms of our preparation, I don’t think anything changes. They made the change a couple of weeks back and have had a couple of games since. We have been able to analyse them. They are still the same team, they are still a very good side. They have real quality up front and showed that in the semi-final. We will have to make sure we are prepared for it.”

Martin Boyle, the Scottish-born Australian internationalist, scored a first-half hat-trick in the semi-final triumph over Rangers last month, and Postecoglou is wary of the problems he can pose Celtic in the final third.

“He was outstanding,” he said. “I thought the whole side were, particularly first 45 minutes. They really took the game to Rangers and probably surprised them a little bit with their intent and the tempo they played.

“Martin was there to get the rewards and he was outstanding. I obviously know him well, he plays for the Australia national team and he is a threat.

“But we have always tried to deal with these things in a collective sense. If we play our football and are dominant the way we have been, then we limit the opportunities for any player in the opposition to cause us problems – whether they have pace or strength or whatever it is they bring.

“It will still come down to us controlling the game so it’s played on our terms and that’s what we will try and do on the weekend.”

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