John Hartson thought it would be “impossible” for Celtic to win the title ahead of the season and believes Ange Postecoglou is close to a “remarkable” achievement.
Celtic maintained a three-point lead over Rangers with eight games left in the cinch Premiership when they won 3-1 at Livingston on Sunday.
Postecoglou arrived at a club in major transition last summer and Hartson admits his scepticism has been confounded.
“If you think how well Ange Postecoglou has done in terms of building this team and getting them to play this expansive, free-flowing, forward-thinking football, he deserves an awful lot of credit,” the former Celtic striker said.
“Rangers were favourites at the start of the season and rightly so, 25 points they won it by last season. Celtic were all over the place at the start of the season, didn’t have a manager in place, thought they were going to get Eddie Howe.
“Ange Postecoglou comes in and no disrespect, nobody had heard of him.
“I remember doing a gig at the start of the season with a couple of players and we were all thinking ‘transition’. And I said ‘well, it might take two years, because Rangers are that strong’. And Celtic were that far behind.
“They lost their best striker in (Odsonne) Edouard and their best defender in (Kristoffer) Ajer, they lost their captain (Scott Brown), Peter Lawwell (chief executive).
“The whole club needed someone to come in and get it spot-on and unite everyone again. And they have done that with the football they have played. It is fantastic football, it is the Celtic way: score more than the opposition.
“I think they have had an exceptional season. They need to improve a lot in Europe, that will be the key next season.
“But if you think about where Celtic were to where they are now, at one point I think they were nine points behind, to keep up that spirit and character has been a credit.
“Ange Postecoglou has come in, been very humble, he understands it, he understand the fans and what the club is about.
“As a club they have bounced back ever so well. I go back to the start of the season – Celtic can’t win the league, it’s impossible to win the league in the state they were in.
“Ange has come in and changed everyone’s thinking. I will go on record and say if we hadn’t got Ange in, we wouldn’t be where we are now.
“The players have had to perform, the board deserve a lot of credit for backing the manager, but we wouldn’t be where we are now if we hadn’t had the opportunity to bring Ange Postecoglou to the club.
“I was one of the ignorant ones who said ‘I don’t think he is a big enough name’. I am not alone in that, lots of people said: ‘Who is he?’ But boy has he stood up and he has the crowd in the palm of his hand right now.
“It would be a remarkable achievement (if they won the league). People talk about 1998 when Celtic stopped the 10, that was another great achievement.
“What Steven Gerrard did last season was magnificent, Rangers conceding so few goals. And this would arguably be right up there.
“I think Ange started a team a few weeks ago that only had two players that weren’t his signings. These guys that have come in have hit the ground running.”
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