Ange Postecoglou was left in a dark place after the last international break but he’s feeling a lot brighter this time after lighting a few candles.
The Celtic boss was cursing his luck last month when Kyogo Furuhashi and Callum McGregor came back crocked from national service and he was praying he’d avoid more woe in the last fortnight.
It was especially tough for the Aussie tuning in to watch his own country face Japan with Kyogo and Tom Rogic squaring up and their gaffer in perpetual fear the pair would go in for a 50-50 challenge.
Postecoglou was grateful his prayers were answered as his men reported back fully fit and ready to roll at Motherwell today.
He said: “We managed to get some work done over the break and the most important thing was to get all the players back in one piece.
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“It’s a relief because the last international window wasn’t kind to us to say the least.
“I was watching the Australia game in Japan with many lit candles, saying the odd prayer now and again!
“Australia lost but I was glad those guys came out of it unscathed.
“I’m still a fan and watch it with a vested interest in the country doing well and qualifying for the World Cup.
“But you’re also a manager and have other concerns. There’s no doubt I was delighted when Kyogo wasn’t in the starting line-up for Japan.
“I was quite happy seeing Tommy jog off with no issues, that was my biggest delight.”
The pair are unscathed but it’s still not easy high-tailing it back from the other side of the world and into the thick of the Premiership battle again.
Manager Postecoglou said: “Tommy has been doing it for years and he knows his own body, how to deal with things.
“The players are professional in how they recover. Kyogo came back on Wednesday, had a lighter session and then a more intense one today. They are both fine and ready to go.”
So is Postecoglou. The block of fixtures before the international distraction were punishing for the Parkhead men, with points dropped at Livingston and a couple of bruising Europa League defeats.
They went in to the break on the back of the away day drought-busting win at Aberdeen and the manager admitted the victory was huge psychologically going in to another tough clash on the road.
It’s the start of a crucial seven game period in 22 days for Celtic as they look to lay the foundations for the rest of the season.
Postecoglou said: “It was important for a number of reasons. You go in to the international break with a bit of momentum.
“Winning away from home was a bit of an issue for us, dating back to last season, so to win away at a tough place against a tough
opponent was important.
“It was not a dominating performance by any stretch, we had to grind our way through it.
“Those are the results that build confidence and belief in what we are doing. It kind of eliminates the away form question but it doesn’t make it any easier.
“All of the away games are really challenging for us and Motherwell will be no different.
“They have started the season well. They will be feeling good about themselves so it’s important we are on our game.
“We’re not going to dominate like we do at Celtic Park but that doesn’t mean we change our approach.”
Postecoglou is getting to grips with the Scottish game and now knows the kind of dog fights to expect when his side ventures away.
He said: “It’s the same all over the world. There are always challenges away from home.
“This is definitely a competitive league. You can see when teams are at home there is a real determination to get a result, particularly against us.
“That’s part of the challenge to overcome it, to be strong mentally and have belief in our football.
“I don’t think we’ve been far away.
“You look at Hearts in the first game, even the Rangers game. It’s not like we were outplayed, it was just moments that cost us.
“We have to make sure we are strong mentally to cope with whatever is thrown at us.”
The last time an Aussie made the headlines involving Celtic at Fir Park it was Scott McDonald’s late goal on Helicopter Sunday.
Postecoglou was Australia Under-20 boss at the time and he joked: “Now you are testing my memory! I would have been watching it back then for sure.
“Scott McDonald was part of my 20s team at the World Cup in UAE in 2003 so I’d have been tuning in.”
Postecoglou is determined this afternoon will only be remembered for a Hoops win.
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