Ange Postecoglou urges Celtic players not to ‘waste’ games ahead of cup final

·3-min read
Steve Welsh/PA Wire

Ange Postecoglou told his Celtic players not to “just tick off” the games until the Scottish Cup final after they drew 2-2 with St Mirren at Parkhead.

Curtis Main scored either side of a Kyogo Furuhashi strike to give the visitors a shock interval lead against the cinch Premiership champions.

Main missed a couple of great chances and hit a post before Hoops captain Callum McGregor levelled in the 81st minute to ensure his side avoided a second successive league defeat after the 3-0 loss to Old Firm rivals Rangers.

Celtic face Hibernian away and Aberdeen at home before taking on Championship side Inverness in the cup final at Hampden Park on June 3, where they will look to clinch a domestic treble.

Postecoglou bristled when it was suggested his side had been fortunate against St Mirren, saying: “That’s your opinion, that’s fine. No, I don’t think we were fortunate.”

He added: “If they’re thinking about the cup final now, that’s a problem. Because when you start thinking too far ahead, you miss what’s happening now.

“We can’t have players thinking about performing on that day. Perform today, perform Wednesday, perform next week and then focus on the cup final.

“This group of players have been outstanding. But there is always this thing inside of me that I don’t want them to waste a moment of their career or a game.

“They have done their job and won the title for the second year in a row and they have Champions League football to look forward to. We haven’t lost at home for two years, so it is not me being critical of this group. Far from it.

“I just want them to enjoy their football and make every game count, not just tick them off until we get to the cup final. Why not play some good football for the next couple of games and enjoy it and make sure our fans enjoy it?

“We play in a certain way that requires a full commitment to every aspect of the game and we’ve just gone off it.

“When you look at it, it is not about individuals, it is about the collective. We have been really good at committing to a game plan and a game structure and a discipline and we’ve gone off that.”

Asked if, sub-consciously, an element of switching off was inevitable with the league title won, he said: “That’s probably true but the games are still there. Either you accept that you are going to struggle for the rest of these games or you do something about it.

“I understand that and I get that because they are human beings. We’ve won the title again which is what the ambition was, but there are still games to be played.”

St Mirren beat Celtic 2-0 last September but had suffered three heavy defeats to the Hoops subsequently.

On this occasion manager Stephen Robinson left Celtic Park a “frustrated man”, although, with the Buddies in sixth place, two points behind Hibernian, he is not giving up on a European place.

He said: “I thought the boys were terrific. To be frustrated not to win the game tells you it was a magnificent performance, to a man.

“It’s difficult to ask any more from them. We created chances and we asked the boys to be brave and they were.

“They passed the ball, we kept possession and we created a lot of chances. With two games to go we’re still in the race for Europe.

“Being frustrated not to win at Celtic Park shows what a good group of boys we’ve got and how far we’ve come.”