As the 125th season of competitive football in Scotland gets underway, we caught up with former Liverpool star and Hoops manager John Barnes to talk about Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic revolution, new forward Kyogo Furuhashi, and the Rangers’ performance this season.
– Ange Postecoglou looks like he’s fitting right in. Thoughts on his philosophy?
JB – “I mean, it’s a tricky one to comment on as it’s so early on in the season and at the moment, it’s all about giving him time and you have to believe in him and that he can find that important togetherness that Celtic was lacking last season.
“As I’ve said about Liverpool with Klopp and with Gerrard at Rangers last year, it’s all about getting behind the manager, believe in him, and the team, and for the players to start taking responsibility for their performances rather than the fans blaming the manager. It comes down to teamwork and working together.
“Yes Ange Postecoglou isn’t a famous manager and very few people have heard of him until now but that shouldn’t matter and perhaps it’s better this way as it’ll be less of a comparison. At the end of the day, if they want Celtic to do well, they have to get behind the manager. And if they get behind him, I really believe they can push Rangers.
“From what I gather he’s a tough manager, yet a fair manager, and after losing out to Ranger last season, having some actual fresh blood coming in – someone who doesn’t know, or experienced, the Celtic vs Ranger rivalry before, perhaps this is just what they need. Time will tell but I’m hopeful.”
– How close do you think the title race will be this season?
JB: “I’ll think it’ll be a lot closer than last year. Of course, Rangers ran away with it, and I think that’s probably a little bit of complacency from Celtic as when last season kicked off, they were pretty certain that they’d nail the 10 in a row and Rangers then used that to their advantage.
So while Rangers were improving, Celtic probably, from a complacency point of view, stood still and everything was a perfect storm for Rangers last year. This year, the boot’s on the other foot. Not that Rangers are now going to be complacent, however having the luxury of stopping 10 in a role probably means that they’ve taken their foot off the gas a little bit, and Celtic are now pushing forward, so it’ll be a much tighter title race, for sure.
– Thoughts on Kyogo Furuhashi? He has hit the ground running at Celtic.
JB: “Kyogo’s quality clearly speaks for itself. Again, it’s early in the season but so far he’s been nothing but great. I also think that he’ll provide some much needed fresh blood and furthermore, he seems to have a great attitude and as we’ve seen, he knows how to score! He’s so on it, and almost a step ahead, that he must be an absolute nightmare to play against.”
– Where do you see the most necessary position for Celtic to strengthen this window?
JB: “I don’t think they necessarily need to strengthen the team to challenge Rangers because, of course, both teams are similar.
“They’ll be first and second. But yes, if they’re looking to qualify for the Champions League and win the Champions League, the yes but in terms of challenging Rangers, they’ve got a good enough team. I also think that signing James McCarthy was a good move as he’ll bring some much needed positivity to the team.
“But realistically, from a financial point of view, neither Celtic nor Rangers can’t compete with the English teams or European teams when it comes to sign the best players; therefore, to sign someone like Kyogo is a fantastic move, and a really smart move.”
– As for Rangers, they’ve not done well in front of a crowd so far this season – did that benefit them last year?
JB: “Not necessarily, no. I do think that because they put in such a fantastic effort last year to go unbeaten and stop 10 in a row, they’ve probably just relaxed a little bit this year, which is understandable. So I don’t think it’s the fact that the fans were actually back, I think it’s the fact that they’ve probably taken a sharp intake of breath that we stopped the 10 in a row, we went unbeaten, how are we going to put that effort in again to actually recreate that?
“And that’s what makes great teams, actually going to do it again, and again, and again. So obviously Steven will have that on his plate to try and get them to play with the same intensity that they did last year. It’s not impossible, but most definitely easier said than done.”