The Scottish season came to an official end yesterday, with the showcase cup final.
Plucky newcomers “rangers ” lifted the Scottish Cup, beating Hearts after extra time.
That should cheer them up.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Ange Postecoglou and the crew are working on that difficult second season.
Securing the permanent transfers of Cameron Carter Vickers, Jota and Daezen Maeda are his first priority.
Indications are that all three will stay.
That’s a fair chunk ..around £12-15m ….of the transfer budget already spent.
So if the next window does turn out to be underwhelming then there’s the reason.
It’s a bit of a reality check that Celtic will have to spend so much just to maintain the squad, rather than improve it, and we can only hope that the board genuinely have changed their somewhat prudent approach to team matters.
However, as with all negotiations, when you’re dealing from a position of strength, you tend to get what you want.
Ange is in that position, and with Champions League money on the way, he should be able to go shopping again this summer, although he will probably have to have one eye on his allowance.
A few players have been mentioned as possible targets, and whilst we cannot reallistically expect any marquee signings, let’s be honest, the players he has brought in are no slouches, and although we might not have heard of them, in the market where he shops they are quite well known.
We’ve been lucky so far in that nearly all of them have slotted in seamlessly.
That’s down largely to knowing the players as opposed to simply looking through data and statistics. It’s an old fashioned way of doing things, but it means that we know what we’re getting.
The manager has a fairly good idea of whether or not a player will fit in, and whether or not he’ll adjust to his new surroundings.
That improves the odds of him getting what he asks for when he approaches the board.
If he does manage to keep this team together, he’ll be sitting on assets worth considerably more than what he paid for them, which will no doubt please those who look after the business side of things, although be prepared for the sound of wailing from the bean counters when the club takes a hit on the likes of Barkas, Ajeti, Jullien and Bolingoli.
In fact, if we had a lesser manager than Ange, there might even have been pressure to sell a key player to make up the shortfall.
And it doesn’t bear thinking about what might have happened if the Championship hadn’t found it’s way back home, and thus avoiding those often painful qualifiers.
When we look back, the first title may well turn out to be the pivitol one, as it gives that little bit of breathing space to continue rebuilding.
The recruitment of Mark Lawwell may have been seen as a step back to the old days under another Lawwell, but Celtic wouldn’t have brought him in to do nothing.
The policy of buying low and selling high is probably still his priority, and we may still see a few out of contract English youngsters make their way north, in the hop that one or two will raise the sort of fee that Moussa Dembele brought in, and that makes sense.
But Ange isn’t here for corporate success, he’s here to bring glory on the field.
At the moment, he may well have the type of players in that will reward him with loyalty, and perform at the highest level, and it seems his plan is to add more of the same.
The first title is in the bag, and with the Scottish champions guaranteed a group place at the end of next season as well, what was largely seen as a bonus this year will be the priority next year.
A failure to win a second title will mean a rethink of policy from the ground up.
Is it something to worry about ?
Ange Postecoglou has a reputation for taking a year or two to adjust to his new surroundings.
With Celtic, it didn’t take as long, maybe a few uncertain weeks early in the season, but after the winter window, having noticed that he was putting in quite a few youth players to fill in the gaps, he made his move.
After the winter break, Celtic kicked into gear…it was almost as though the manager was already in is second season, and two wins over “rangers ” in quick succession more or less won the league.
The focus after Christmas cannot be downplayed, and things began to come together.
The confidence ran through the team, and older fans will probably agree that there was a hunger in the squad.
It could be that most of them took heart from winning the League Cup, again, the importance of that cannot be ignored.
Whatever the manager wanted them to do had been shown to pay dividends, and from then on there would have been little argument as to his methods, from the training ground right through to match day.
Some players have improved beyond belief, and thats only after a few months.
If we don’t recruit as many as we would like over the next few months, we may have to rely on those already here.
Yes, maybe they aren’t quite whats needed for the UCL, but there’s a chance they may become that.
Perhaps the old board and other managers would have settled for that.
Ange Postecoglou won’t.
My theory , and that’s all it is, a theory, is that he will be around for a while.
He’s not the kind of guy to use Celtic to get to a Watford or a Bournemouth. Although he is career minded, he will also remember that Celtic gave him this opportunity.
And he certainly seems grateful, as we have seen in countless interviews.
There is a sense that he genuinely is of the”Celtic not my first love but it will be my last ” mind.
By winning the league, and the next one, he has a shot at the champions League.
For a man of his ambition, and the fact he came from the other side of the world , by himself, to take the job underlies that ambition, that’s an incredible challenge.
To win the second title will ensure he has the funds, and the backing of the support, to make a serious attempt at European glory the season after next.
That will be the target, and to do that, he’ll spend the next two windows building a team with that in mind.
Not just buying in ready made players, but also those he thinks he can improve to play the game the way he wants to play it.
By building a team capable of competing in the UCL, he will at the same tine have a team that should sweep the board domestically.
Ange’s second season isn’t about winning on Scotland, it’s about competing and succeeding in Europe.
If he can continue to maintain and improve the standards he has put in place, the sky really is the limit.
There is a camaraderie around the place that hasn’t been there for a long time, a real sense of togetherness.
And there’s something else, and it goes back to something Ronny Deila once said..
He was trying to get the players to play a certain way, a way that was carried on under Brendan Rodgers that worked.
Deila said that once the players had mastered that, he would add other things, different formations and so on that would mean that opponents would not know, quite literally, which Celtic they would be facing.
Not a fundamental change, but certain little adjustments that altered a lot .
For example, imagine if Celtic started a game with two up front, and four across the middle….by the time opponents had realised they had lined up to face a different team, they’d be a couple of goals down, and their need to adjust would cause panic and confusion.
That’s a level up from the pragmatic approach of adding a midfielder to stifle the opposition, but it’s the way managers like Deila and Postecoglou think.
And with both managers having won titles in three different countries, I’d argue they know their stuff.
We’ve a lot to look forward to, and the new season can’t come quick enough for me.
But I’m happy to wait, happy to see what the manager comes up with after he’s had a full pre season with players he chose who have complete faith in his ideas, his methods and most of all, his ambitions.