Archive for June 11th, 2021


Adios Ange

Ange Postecoglou’s drawn out departure from Yokohama F.Marinos to Celtic provided a rare instance of a J.League manager being poached by a bigger club, and the reactions to it from overseas made for interesting viewing… (日本語版)


In football, managers are always changing clubs. A coach is fired or quits somewhere in the world every week, with the J.League’s three divisions already seeing 13 casualties in the 2021 season.

On the whole, these departures are met with one of two responses by supporters: relief, or even happiness, on the part of those who weren’t fans of the outgoing boss; or anger and sadness for those who wanted them to stick around.

Ange Postecoglou’s exit from Yokohama F.Marinos, however, was a little more complex.

Changes in the dugout in Japan are almost always made because results aren’t up to scratch, with clubs wielding the axe or the incumbents falling on their own swords as penance. In the case of Postecoglou and Marinos that wasn’t the issue though, and this was instead one of those few occasions when a manager in the J.League was actively enticed away by an offer from elsewhere, resulting in disappointment and/or resigned acceptance from Marinos supporters.

While reactions on social media are certainly not the best way to gauge the general mood – with debate, if it can even be called that, ultimately dominated by the loudest voices at both extremes, and balanced, nuanced comment nigh-on impossible – responses overseas to the rumours have also been interesting and cast a light on how the J.League is viewed further afield.

On one side of the fence there seem to be a lot of sceptical – to put it politely – Celtic fans unimpressed to have somebody they’ve “never heard of” who “only coaches in Japan” taking charge of their storied club. Writing someone off on these grounds is of course ridiculous – firstly because people you’ve heard of don’t always do well, and secondly because it doesn’t take much effort these days to do a bit of research and see that Postecoglou has been successful at club level in Australia and Japan and also when in charge of the Australian national team – but it does demonstrate the difference in expectation levels and pressure between football in Japan and the UK.

At the other end of the spectrum, meanwhile, the die-hard fans of ‘Ange-ball’ are delighted to see their man given this chance, and have been hitting back at those belittling him by insisting he is more than a match for one of Europe’s great old clubs. Again, a little more trepidation may be in order here, and while Postecoglou has ultimately picked up silverware everywhere he’s been, it has always come with the caveat of wanting his teams to play in a very particular way, which takes time to implement.

As the reaction of some Celtic fans shows, time is not something he is likely to be given a great deal of in Glasgow,. The club is coming off the back of a miserable season in which their bitter rivals Rangers won the Scottish Premier League at a canter to prevent them making it 10 consecutive titles, and while Postecoglou undoubtedly has the steel and tactical nous to bring the good times back to Celtic Park, if he isn’t given full backing by the club and the players and fans don’t buy into his approach quickly then things could turn sour before any progress is made.

Returning to Japan, meanwhile, the J.League can certainly can be pleased with the fact that its competition is now at the level to serve as a stepping stone for coaches as well as players. If Postecoglou does well at Celtic then the standing of the league will only improve, possibly increasing the chances of more up-and-coming international managers considering the league as a viable option to help build their reputations.

On the flip side, Marinos are of course left facing a dilemma. The club is not only losing a coach that has delivered success and re-established them as one of the J.League’s leading teams, but also one that has re-defined them by installing a distinctive, effective, and entertaining style of play. The involvement of City Football Group, which has an overarching philosophy it wants employed at all its clubs, suggests they will look to bring in a replacement with a similar ethos, but having to do so at short notice in the middle of the season will not be straightforward.

Will they look to swiftly recruit an already-Japan-based proponent of proactive football – Albert Puig of Albirex Niigata, Postecoglou’s former assistant Peter Cklamovski, who recently joined Montedio Yamagata, and ex-Kawasaki Frontale manager Yahiro Kazama being a few names that spring immediately to mind – or instead take their time and look to recruit someone we’ve never heard of from overseas using their vast scouting network?

Whichever it is, the loss of Postecoglou is a big blow to Marinos and the J.League as a whole, and, to borrow a phrase the man himself likes to apply to his work, it will be fascinating to see how he gets on with the next stage of his journey.

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June 2021