Cast your mind back to July. On the night that Celtic went out of the Champions League to Midtjylland, the team was going absolutely nowhere. People were already questioning the wisdom in appointing Ange Postecoglou as manager and it was hard to blame them.
Since then, well it’s actually hard to quantify just how far they have come.
This squad was thrown together. Twelve new players came through the door most of whom would hardly have known each other’s names on the day of the first game.
Ange Postecoglou won his first trophy as Celtic manager at Hampden Park on Sunday
A shedload of talent had either left or were looking to move on in the case of Olivier Ntcham and Kristoffer Ajer.
You only had a handful of players, the likes of Callum McGregor, James Forrest and Tom Rogic, who were still in the building. This was a full rebuild job – one that looked like taking years rather then weeks to get right.
On top of that, you’d the fact that Peter Lawwell had recently left – someone with huge experience in getting transfers over the line.
Postecoglou’s job was nigh impossible. So to be parading that trophy on Sunday, and still be very much in contention in the league, is nothing short of astonishing.
The Australian has proved the doubters wrong since taking over at Celtic Park in the summer
He’s done it in two major ways. Firstly, by hitting the mark in the transfer market. Just look at the contributions Kyogo Furuhashi and Joe Hart made at Hampden. Match winners at both ends of the park.
And secondly, by elevating the performances of players already at the club. Anthony Ralston is the main case in point but there are countless examples.
Let’s not forget that Steven Gerrard came into Rangers and took three years to win one trophy after being well backed by his board.
Postecoglou came into a club that was absolutely decimated. He’s had to pick up the pieces after the complete disaster which was last season.
Kyogo Furuhashi has made an immediate impact since arriving from Vissel Kobe in July
The Japanese scored both of Celtic’s goals in their 2-1 win over Hibs at Hampden Park
It wasn’t just the playing squad which was shot to pieces and demoralised.. The fan base was angry and wondering what on earth was going on.
Another factor that often overlooked is that he’s achieved this turnaround without bringing in any of his own coaches.
Yet before 2022 dawns, he’s not only delivered his first trophy with a new squad that’s been injury hit. He’s reunited and reenergised the entire club.
They are now chasing down a settled Rangers side and yesterday’s win will give them all the belief they need that they can now catch them.
Celtic will now aim to dethrone Rangers, who won the Scottish Premiership last season
Psychologically, you cannot underestimate its significance.. For all Celtic have had incredible success over the past five years, this is the first trophy for this particular group of players.
They’ve had a taste of it now and they will only want more. In the last 17 games across all competitions, Celtic have won 15, drawn one and lost one.. That’s frightening form. That tells you this team is going places.
It’s wonderful for Callum McGregor. It’s one thing having the armband and giving the team talk, but lifting that first trophy as captain is something special.
He’s excelled in the role that he was almost forced into. To be honest. When I first met him, I wouldn’t have thought that he was captain material – a really quiet boy, ultra professional but just not Scott Brown.
The Premier Sports Cup was Callum McGregor’s first trophy as Celtic captain
This victory cements him as the rightful successor. It’s incredibly to think that he’s still never lost a Cup Final at Hampden.
It’s not been hard for the Celtic supporters to buy-into Postecoglou’s style of play but the club has always been about winning trophies.
Play well and lose the final on penalties and the pressure and the questions would increase. The fact they deservedly won it changes everything.
It doesn’t give the manager a free pass from this day forward but it goes a long way to vindicating his appointment. It means he’s now got an awful lot of credit in the bank.
Former England No 1 Joe Hart has also been rejuvenated by a move north of the border
All the signs are that the board do and will trust him to strengthen the squad in January. Given the calibre of player he’s signed so far, how could they possibly not?
Kyogo has been an absolute sensation. He’s completely lit the place up. Those two finishes yesterday were absolutely outrageous.
I can understand people arguing that he’s already the best Celtic striker since Larsson but I’d disagree purely because he’s only been here six months and also because I played with Gary Hooper.
You’ve also got to consider some of the other names to have played up there over the past 20 years – John Hartson, Chris Sutton, Georgios Samaras, Anthony Stokes, Leigh Griffiths, Moussa Dembele, Odsonne Edouard. So it’s an awful big call. A lot of those guys did it season after season.
Furuhashi has been compared to Celtic legend Henrik Larsson for his goalscoring prowess
But what I would say is you’ve now got someone there who is emulating some fantastic strikers who’ve gone before him in terms of finishing and movement.
If he’s going to be the new Larsson, he’ll need a player as good as Sutton or Hartson alongside him. He can’t do it himself. The one worry for Celtic is what happens if he’s not fit. So take the workload off him.
All the indications are that Postecoglou will dip back into the Asian market in January with up to three new players lined up. Why wouldn’t you back him to the hilt?
Despite having no prior connection, this guy gets the club. He knows it’s more than a football club. It’s a way of life to so many people.
To think just a few months ago, people were mystified as to why Celtic were taking a chance on a guy with no experience of top level football in Europe. It now feels like it was all meant to be.