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Ange Postecoglou: Special response from Celtic fans is why I love football

Celtic v Midtjylland – UEFA Champions League – Second Qualifying Round – First Leg – Celtic Park
(Image credit: Jeff Holmes)

Ange Postecoglou claimed the reception he got from the Celtic fans ahead of their Champions League qualifier against Midtjylland reminded him of why he “loves the game.”

The Hoops boss spoke of “so many disruptions” in pre-season and claimed the Parkhead club had “hesitated” in the transfer market in the lead-up to the first leg tie against the Danish outfit.

However, those frustrations were washed away on Tuesday night when 9,000 Hoops fans – the biggest crowd inside the stadium since coronavirus restrictions were introduced in March, 2020 – gave him a huge cheer when he was introduced before the 1-1 draw.

After the match, the former Australia manager dismissed questions about the financial implications of exiting the Champions League to concentrate on the feeling he got from supporters on his first competitive match as Celtic manager.

He said: “It was brilliant. It was a special night for me because to walk out the tunnel as Celtic manager in a Champions League game, the response from the fans was very special.

“I guess that’s why I love the game. You talk about finances – it’s the last thing on my mind when you get a response like that from people who love this football club, that’s what motivates me.

“I’m not an accountant. I’m a football manager. When people start talking to me about finances they miss the essence of what I’m about.

“I’m not interested. I want to win games, I want to win trophies, I want to bring special nights to here. The finances are for other people.”

It was quite a start for Postecoglou.

Liel Abada, the 19-year-old Israeli winger, marked his competitive debut in the 37th minute by giving the home side the lead.

Celtic defender Nir Bitton was sent off before the break for remonstrating with Anders Dreyer for diving in the box, thus picking up his second yellow.

The Midtjylland wide man, booked for his attempt to win a penalty, then picked up a second yellow for diving after the break before Brazilian midfielder Evander levelled for the Danish side with a free-kick to set up nicely next week’s second leg in Denmark.

Bitton’s needless dismissal meant a debut for 18-year-old defender Dane Murray and his performance pleased Postecoglou.

He said: “You know how young he is and he is not just coming on the pitch, he is facing a formidable opponent and with 10 men.

“But you know what, my gut instinct told me he wouldn’t be fazed by it.

“I watched him in training and he is a young kid, not just with football potential but personality and character which belies his age.

“I was quite happy to trust him out there.”

Fellow centre-back Stephen Welsh, who only became a fixture in the side last season himself, was also impressed but not surprised by the latest youngster to emerge from the club’s academy.

The 21-year-old said: “Dane Murray was fantastic on his debut, both on the ball and defensively.

“When Nir went off I had confidence in Dane coming in because he’s trained with us since last season.

“He’s been fantastic and I felt comfortable with him because he’s so good for such a young player.

“He’s got a bright future ahead of him and he’ll be a big player for us.

“The manager has faith in him and as a young player that’s all you need. Someone to put trust in you to go and play with freedom.

“If Dane is selected next week then I’ve got massive confidence he can go there and put a performance in.”