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Ange Postecoglou reveals influence of Ferenc Puskas on his career

Motherwell v Celtic – cinch Premiership – Fir Park
(Image credit: Steve Welsh)

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou spoke about the major influence Hungary and Real Madrid great Ferenc Puskas has had on his career ahead of his side’s meeting with Ferencvaros.

Postecoglou played under Puskas for South Melbourne from 1989 to 1992 and formed a close bond before embarking on his own managerial career at the same club.

The Greek-born Australian largely shares a football philosophy with Puskas, who helped transform the game with Hungary and Real, and learnt a lot about leadership from his mentor.

“I was fortunate enough to spend a few years with the great Ferenc Puskas, an absolute gentleman, and someone who holds a very dear place in my heart,” Postecoglou said. “He looked after me for two or three years, we had a very close relationship.

“There have been varying influences in the way I look at football and the predominant one was my father but Ferenc was one of the most significant influences for sure.

“I was captain of South Melbourne and he was one of the biggest legends of the game. If you are talking about the greatest ever, he makes that list of players.

“He was just a gentleman. From the moment he wandered through he was just humble. We were constantly pestering him to tell us stories about Real Madrid, what he did at Hampden, what he did at Wembley.

“He was forever downplaying everything and it just showed you the greatness of the man was just his humility in dealing with people.

“I was lucky because, when he came to Australia his English wasn’t great, but he had coached Panathinaikos to a European Cup final. So his Greek was decent. So I acted almost as an interpreter.

“I used to pick him up from his house and drive him to training in my crappy old car, which I was embarrassed about. We swapped many stories and his philosophy to football was basically just go out there and enjoy yourselves and score goals.

“We used to play with two wingers and he was forever telling our wingers never to come back and defend. I was a full-back so it used to infuriate me, but we won a championship with him and part of the reason we won was the atmosphere within the group, because nobody wanted to let him down, he was just a great man.

“I was really sad when he passed away because when he left Australia I wasn’t able to reconnect with him when I got older and became a manager myself. Because I would have loved to thank him personally for the influence he was, as a man as much as he was as a coach.”

Postecoglou has brought those lessons to Glasgow as he sets about instilling his attacking style of play.

“It certainly highlighted how important as a leader that people believe in you,” the 56-year-old said. “We certainly believed in him.

“I am totally different to him. He was the most humble man, where he would just talk with everyone and you could spend hours with him. I am not as social as he was in that respect.

“But he showed as a leader that you don’t have to rule by fear at all times. It was like playing for your grandfather, you just didn’t want to let him down. He was old when he got to us but he just had that aura about him that we didn’t want to let him down.

“That was pretty strong in terms of showing me that as a leader people you are working with need to believe in you as much as your ideas. That was certainly really evident with the atmosphere he created at training and at the club.”

Both Celtic and their Hungarian opponents have zero points after their first two games.

“There is no shying away from it, we need a win,” said Postecoglou, who has Adam Montgomery back from injury.