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Manager Watch: Ange Postecoglou

RELISYS

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2011
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Long read but really great insight from a sports scientist who worked for years at Spurs and then worked with Ange at Celtic.


Working on Ange Postecoglou’s staff: ‘Presence, fear factor, the best hairdryer in the world’

Anton McElhone was in the first day of a job he had dreamed about for 20 years. Then Ange Postecoglou brought him back to reality.

“We were in a meeting and I was excited to tell him what I was thinking and doing, but I didn’t read the room and started talking over him,” says McElhone, who was head of sports science during Postecoglou’s two years at Celtic.

“He laid down the law: ‘Don’t speak over me. I’ll let you know if I have a question’.”

McElhone, who spent a decade at Spurs as a fitness coach between 2007 and 2017 — and has worked as a coach at Greenock Morton, Bradford City and New England Revolution — was used to a demand for high standards having worked with Juande Ramos, Harry Redknapp, Andre Villas-Boas and Mauricio Pochettino.

“But Ange was another level,” he says. “He is a man mountain of a guy who has got presence, fear factor; the best hairdryer in the world.

“I quickly realised that in meetings you had to get to the point, he had no time for fluff. (It was ‘Just give me the facts and I’ll make the decision’.

“I’ve never worked with a manager who is such a force of nature. He can will things into life. It was an unbelievable two-year experience about leadership and managing people.”


Postecoglou led Spurs to a fifth-place finish in the club’s first season post-Harry Kane, and McElhone believes that if he is given the same freedom to shape the club in his image this summer, they will progress the same way his previous clubs have in the second year.

It was a fragile time for Celtic and Postecoglou when McElhone joined in September 2021.

Just two months into the Australian’s first season, doubt was already growing over whether Postecoglou was the man to rebuild a club still in mutiny following their failed attempt at a historic 10 consecutive championships.

Fourteen players left that summer and 12 arrived but they were eliminated in Champions League qualifying and suffered three losses in the opening six league games, including a 1-0 defeat against Livingston two days before McElhone started work.

Despite the setbacks, there was not a hint of doubt or compromise when it came to implementing ideas novel to many in Scottish football.

“I thought things would maybe be a little bit sticky when I went in, but the style was like a religion,” McElhone tells The Athletic. “Every day, the message was the same: ‘This is what I believe, this is my way, it doesn’t matter about the noise, we will get there’.

“We started scoring late winners and it was because the mental attitude of ‘We never stop’ was so ingrained in the players that they became relentless.”

McElhone endured a tough start in his initial few months at Celtic as he dealt with a horrendous injury list, which was the first test of his relationship with Postecoglou.

“He was understanding and said it was part of the process when he goes into a club. The players are not used to training at that level but after year one, he expects for that to be cleared up.

We had to make sure the data was right and they were training hard enough to match the standards Ange wanted. We brought in a new nutritionist and a rehab coach, we changed the GPS company and introduced interventions like group pre-training that then became individualised based on previous injuries.

“Ange backed everything if it was objective, measured and going to make the team better.”

Come December, Postecoglou had arrived at his first final in the League Cup against Hibernian. There were six injury doubts but none more pivotal than Japanese striker Kyogo Furuhashi.

“His hamstring injury should have kept him out for weeks but Ange asked the medical staff if there was any possibility we could get him ready. My reference was that we had done something similar at Spurs with Harry Kane to play Real Madrid a few years before, so I did the rehab for seven or eight days.

“We got him back and it was worth it because he scored two goals (in a 2-1 win) and we got that first medal, which was the game changer.

“Ange allowed the culture of the Japanese players to come into the dressing room. They would always slowly jog around the pitch for 20 minutes after a match and people were scared they were doing too much as it was another 3km, but he said, ‘That’s what they do there, don’t change it’.”

After winning the title in his first season, Postecoglou had his first experience of the Champions League group stage, with the first and last games against Real Madrid.

The results did not reflect it but Celtic performed well in both and missed several big chances before being brutally beaten 3-0 in Glasgow and 5-1 at the Bernabeu.

“I’ve never seen faith, trust, belief in a method like it. Everyone was thinking we did quite well but after the game in Madrid he was like, ‘No, I don’t care who we’re playing, next year we want to be better than that’.

You can’t put a limit on what you can achieve in life. That was his outlook. He didn’t care it was a Scottish team. For me, that was when you saw the mentality and the determination to play our football regardless of the levels. I doubted it, thinking you can’t play like that in the Bernabeu, but people gained belief that we could after games like that.”

The team talks stayed with McElhone. “He is a great orator and storyteller who knows how to work the room. The speeches before the cup finals are the best I’ve ever heard.

“He inspired the players — not by telling them what to do, but by touching on where they come from and why they are doing it. He would find something in their story to elevate them and would often say that no one believed they would be here at a certain point in their career.

“There was one about a shoe salesman and another in the last cup final was about the threads on the jersey. If I could have written them down, I would have.”

Now head of academy coaching at Queen’s Park in Scotland, McElhone witnessed Pochettino transform Spurs’ culture in a similar way when he arrived in 2014.

“Both are ruthless, analytical and don’t suffer fools gladly, but there is a different energy to them,” McElhone says. “Ange is obsessed with winning. Mauricio is a bit more holistic and would use facts and figures to prove his point — especially at half-time, with live video to show what had gone wrong.

“But to get to Mauricio, you had to go through his staff. If you were disappointed or something was wrong, you would see his assistant Jesus Perez. If it was bad, you would see Jesus and the manager.

“I’ve never worked with anyone else who managed on his own like Ange. He sat at the top of the pyramid and managed his assistants and the heads of departments. He then allowed them to lead and because he gave people autonomy they responded to that.

“I learned that you don’t have to be at the coal face doing everything. You can delegate, set the tone, values and vision, allow them to work and then guide everyone towards it

The same applied to the tactical sessions on the training pitch.

“Ange doesn’t take 90 per cent of the training. He steps back so he can see everything and several times, he said to me, ‘That player doesn’t look right’. He takes the tactical stuff and the meetings pre- and post-match, which is he incredible at and brings everything together.

“The themes are there every day with Ange — inverted full-backs, wingers high and wide, breaking lines — but he allows the players to thrive in it, without telling them you must stand here, you must stand there. Whereas Mauricio was very specific to get to his model.

“Players hate when they are restricted. The style is so invigorating that it takes away excuses for players as he takes the responsibility for allowing them to try things in his style.

“He’ll be ruthless this summer and go and get even better players to play his way.”

Postecoglou is trying to create the same culture at Spurs but he clashed with his own fans in the penultimate game of the season against Manchester City. Some of the home crowd wanted Spurs to lose so that they did not hand the title to their north London rivals Arsenal — a part of fan rivalry Postecoglou railed against.

He later admitted he had misjudged the mood but will that difference in mentality be a frustration for him?

“Yes, because he will believe he can win the Premier League. He will believe it until everyone else does. At Celtic’s end-of-season team review, I mentioned we used to do this and that at Spurs. It was just as a reference but he told me to stop. It was all about us in the moment, he didn’t want outside comparisons.

“I’m just forever grateful to him for bringing me to the club and giving me all the freedom to work I could ever have wanted.”
Interesting.

Our Head of sports science has recently left the Club after 10 Years with us. Maybe his relationship with Ange became strained after all the injuries we had this season or somebody wanted a change for whatever reason. We are also looking for another physical performance coach.
 

Gspurs11

Well-Known Member
Aug 19, 2012
1,952
8,706
Interesting.

Our Head of sports science has recently left the Club after 10 Years with us. Maybe his relationship with Ange became strained after all the injuries we had this season or somebody wanted a change for whatever reason. We are also looking for another physical performance coach.
Yeah, saw we brought Nathan Gardiner back in a few months ago to replace him.
 

EQP

EQP
Sep 1, 2013
8,181
30,654
Interesting.

Our Head of sports science has recently left the Club after 10 Years with us. Maybe his relationship with Ange became strained after all the injuries we had this season or somebody wanted a change for whatever reason. We are also looking for another physical performance coach.

Yeah, saw we brought Nathan Gardiner back in a few months ago to replace him.


NATHAN GARDINER has returned to Tottenham as Head of Sports Science.
MARCH 5, 2024

The appointment marks a return to the club Gardiner served for 15 years up to October 2020, when he joined Scott Parker at Fulham as First-Team Coach. However, he left the Cottagers the following summer when Parker departed to become boss of Bournemouth.

Gardiner, whose brother Matt is Assistant Manager at Blackburn Rovers, is unusual in being qualified as a sports scientist, physio and coach. He has a Sports Science Degree from Loughborough University, a Physiotherapy Degree from Kings College and is a holder of the UEFA A Licence.

Gardiner joined Spurs as a fitness coach in 2006, going on to become Head of Sports Science from 2012 to 2018. His final role at the club was as Technical Co-Ordinator and Head of Sports Science, Fitness and Conditioning.

This time he replaces Sam Pooley, who is leaving the club after a decade. Pooley was appointed Head of Sports Science in July 2021. The overall head of the unified medical and performance department is Geoff Scott.
 

Westmorlandspur

Well-Known Member
Feb 1, 2013
3,145
5,128
Watching Harry last night it was maybe as well he left. When you watch Sonny pressing and then compare it with Harry. Ange would have been going bonkers. Harry was playing like a pensioner.
 

Gilzeanking

Well-Known Member
May 7, 2005
6,185
5,171
really great read. Thank you. Further and further reinforced my trust and faith in him
Yes, there's no doubt that he's a brilliant people person.

For me it's a question of getting top level expertise in his staff, which it seems he's not going to do. Competing at Prem level is something he's still learning. The rigidity around the 'religion' of his system is such that it makes us easy to predict and counteract.

This was laid bare with our dreadful end of season form where he was regularly out thought by canny oppo managers. I'm praying that Ange has a major learning curve over the summer on several levels.
 

Yiddo100

Well-Known Member
Jan 16, 2019
10,387
53,576
Watching Harry last night it was maybe as well he left. When you watch Sonny pressing and then compare it with Harry. Ange would have been going bonkers. Harry was playing like a pensioner.
I think that’s more tactics than anything else, it’s clear Southgate has no intentions of pressing the opposition.

Im not saying Harry would be a great presser but he’d definitely do it more than he’s showing now.
 

easley91

Well-Known Member
Jan 27, 2011
19,910
56,830
Watching Harry last night it was maybe as well he left. When you watch Sonny pressing and then compare it with Harry. Ange would have been going bonkers. Harry was playing like a pensioner.
Kane wasn't alone in that last night though. No England player was up to speed apart from Walker for the goal. They looked like they couldn't handle the pitch cutting up and was at walking pace across the board.
 

archiewasking

Waiting for silverware..........
Jul 5, 2004
7,959
12,022
Kane wasn't alone in that last night though. No England player was up to speed apart from Walker for the goal. They looked like they couldn't handle the pitch cutting up and was at walking pace across the board.
If Ange had that group of players we'd be nailed on to win it. The bookies would have already paid out and be taking bets on the runners up.
 

mil1lion

This is the place to be
May 7, 2004
43,424
81,867
Kane has managed his body a lot more since all the injuries he was getting particularly to the ankles. He rarely presses aggressively. I think with him you just need those around him to do the legwork and him to be the one linking play together. I just dont know how well it would work with Maddison but then maybe we don't sign him if we kept Kane. I think ideally you would have Kane drop into the 10 position and a Richarlison (or Watkins for England) in front. For Ange in his system you then have wide attackers and centre forward playing off him and the inverted fullbacks come infield and link with him. That's where Maddison and Kane with those inverted fullbacks would have been an issue as too many will occupy the same areas. I think selling him just allowed us to get a proper 10 in midfield instead.
 

SpartanSpur

Well-Known Member
Jan 27, 2011
12,619
43,435
Watching Harry last night it was maybe as well he left. When you watch Sonny pressing and then compare it with Harry. Ange would have been going bonkers. Harry was playing like a pensioner.

Ange said he would have moulded the team around Kane had he stayed. Which is what a good manager does with a player of that quality. The current England setup is totally busted. The midfield's refusal to back up the press was a far bigger issue than Kane ambling around.

Looking forward to Ange's England analysis more than the Slovenia game itself. Thomas Frank was clearly holding back his thoughts last night which was frustrating to watch.
 

mark87

Well-Known Member
Nov 29, 2004
36,759
119,745


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