Ange Postecoglou and his Celtic troops stand just 90 minutes away from completing a turnaround even the most optimistic of supporters might not have foreseen.
The Hoops take on bitter rivals Rangers at Parkhead on Sunday (kick-off at 9pm AEST), with 60,000 fans clad in green and white expected to pack the stadium.
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It will be the fifth Old Firm encounter of the season, with both having two wins each.
Consider Sunday’s clash the tie-breaker, with a victory for Celtic virtually securing the Scottish Premiership, just one year after they finished behind their deadly enemies by 19 points.
The equation is simple: Celtic sit six points ahead of Rangers on the table. A victory moves the Hoops nine points clear with three fixtures remaining and would also hand them a pretty much unassailable goal difference swing of over 20.
It would also mean Postecoglou becomes the first Australian manager to win a trophy in a top-tier European competition, let alone a Scottish league.
You’d have been hard pressed to find any Celtic diehard who could have predicted the success that Postecoglou has delivered to date, as he also lead the Hoops to a Scottish League Cup triumph.
When the former Socceroos boss first touched down in Glasgow, he had no shortage of issues to sift through.
A squad in desperate need of a revamp. A fanbase needing to believe again.
But perhaps most of all, he had to get Celtic fans onside and fast.
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Part of the initial skepticism came from fans disillusioned after the club’s lengthy and ultimately unsuccessful of Eddie Howe to step into the hot seat at Parkhead, but the majority of it centered around the heavy element of the unknown.
“While the global tactics community were thrilled by his possible introduction to European football, many Celtic fans were less enthralled,” The Athletic’s Kieran Devlin wrote in August last year.
“That general mood cannot be separated from the bitter fallout from the Howe negotiations, nor the exasperation after the failures of last season, but even if Postecoglou had been appointed in happier times there would have been doubts over him as a somewhat unknown quantity — fairly or not.”
Perhaps the most infamous moment of befuddlement of Postecoglou securing the gig came from talkSPORT pundit Alan Brazil, who questioned whether Postecoglou’s imminent arrival was a “wind-up.”
“Oh, this had got to be a wind-up, no,” Brazil said last year.
“Yokohama? They make motorcycles.
“Ange Postecoglou? Dear oh dear. He’ll be a great manager… where do they come up with these guys?”
A penny for every doubting thought now.
To get where they are now, major surgery was required by the squad.
Postecoglou went about that by signing a whopping 14 players in the summer window, with some picked up by the club with an eye on the future.
Keeping with the theme of doubting the unknown, many Celtic fans were concerned about the Postecoglou players signed in the summer window, none more so than Kyogo Furuhashi.
But like his boss, he quickly silenced the critics with his lightning pace, relentless pressing and clinical finishing.
If there were any fans who weren’t onside with the Japanese international, they certainly crossed the divide when he bagged a brace against Hibernian in the Scottish League Cup final.
To date, he’s the club’s top goalscorer across all competitions even after missing almost every game since suffering an injury against Real Betis in a Europa League fixture in early December.
Safe to say, Furuhashi has passed the grade and so have just about every one of Postecoglou’s signings in both the summer and winter windows.
Liel Abada was nominated for PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year. Cameron Carter-Vickers, Josip Juranovic, Jota and Furuhashi were all named in the PFA Scotland Premiership Team of the Year.
But getting to this point has not been a journey of smooth waters.
Celtic’s first league game under Postecoglou’s watch was a 1-0 defeat to Hearts.
Two consecutive 6-0 wins against Dunee and St Mirren followed, lifting the mood around the club and giving supporters early hope that better days were not as far away as previously thought.
But from late August until early October, Postecoglou faced his first real test since taking over as boss.
Celtic took just seven points from 24 on offer, with a 1-0 defeat to Rangers amongst the run in what was Postecoglou’s first Old Firm derby.
The Hoops were sixth in the league and the doubters were being provided with even more ammunition that Postecoglou was not the man for the job.
Yet, if anything, it only steeled the squad’s resolve.
After the loss to Livingston on September 19, the Hoops have remained unbeaten in the Scottish Premiership, winning a whopping 24 games from 27, including two wins over Rangers.
At the start of the season, being in such a position might have seemed unfathomable to the majority of green and white supporters.
But here they stand, one game away from completing the turnaround, on home soil, and against Rangers.
The last time Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side visited Parkhead, they were played off the pitch in humiliating fashion.
Blue shirts chased shadows across the pitch for 90 minutes in what was truly a classic Postecoglou tactical masterclass.
For all of the positivity revolving around Celtic, it must be said that Rangers will be no pushovers, especially in a game of this magnitude.
They’re not Europa League semi-finalists through sheer luck, and snatching three points on Celtic’s own turf still leaves Postecoglou’s side with the Premiership race in their own hands, but boy would it ramp up the pressure.
However, Rangers will have to contend with an atmosphere that very few venues across Europe can generate, especially when Hoops fans know what’s at stake.
But no matter what happens, the 60,000 Celtic faithful expected to turn up to Celtic Park finally have belief again.
It’s not solely down to Postecoglou, but he’s undeniably played an instrumental role in bringing the good times back to the green and white half of Glasgow.