If Ange Postecoglou is really now starting to believe he can lead Celtic back to their Championship-winning promised land, he’s still doing a good job of hiding it.
Asked where his team’s decisive 2-1 ‘Old Firm’ win at Rangers left the Scottish title race on Sunday, Celtic’s boss offered the most Australian of retorts: “Three points closer, mate…”
Doubtless, it really felt rather more than that to Postecoglou, who had again just come through the madness and magic of one of the world’s great soccer derbies at Rangers’ Ibrox Stadium.
The madness came when a member of Celtic’s backroom staff ended up requiring “urgent medical treatment and stitches to a head wound” after being hit by a glass bottle chucked from the crowd.
The magic for the Aussie came with his side’s “steely” resolve to come from behind and earn a victory in hostile territory.
For it now leaves them six points clear of Rangers at the top of the league and also with a healthy goal difference advantage of 16.
Postecoglou was certainly not about to let the bottle-throwing episode spoil his day nor a “fantastic spectacle” as he criticised the perpetrators as “a couple of idiots”.
“I think he is okay, he had a couple of stitches,” said Postecoglou, referring to the unnamed backroom official who was hit when players and officials were trekking down the tunnel at halftime after Celtic had fought from a goal down to take a first-half lead.
“It is disappointing because this is a fixture that gets beamed around the world, and stands on its own.
“Two teams going at it, first and second spot. You don’t need a couple of idiots ruining it.”
Neither, though, was Postecoglou about to get ahead of himself even though Celtic are now overwhelming favourites to win another piece of silverware in the first year of his tenure following the League Cup win in December.
The former Socceroos boss had one of his Australian international old boys to thank as Tom Rogic had another terrific game, capped by his seventh-minute equaliser following Aaron Ramsey’s opener for Rangers three minutes earlier.
American centre back Cameron Carter-Vickers got the winner before halftime and the visitors knew it was likely to be a spicy second half when it began with groundstaff having to clear broken glass from Celtic goalie Joe Hart’s penalty area.
There’s now just six matches left and Rangers still have to visit Parkhead again, with Postecoglou shrugging: “We’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing.
“Our football’s been great, but there’s a real abundance of character within the group. I’m really proud of the players.”
“If you want to reveal character, you reveal it in the most difficult of circumstances – and that happened today.”