Before Ange Postecoglou brought his progressive football to Parkhead, the one-time Socceroos coach turned the Japanese scene upside down.
The response in Scotland was downcast when the 56-year-old was appointed manager at Celtic in June, but his former assistant Kevin Muscat says it was “laziness” on the part of pundits.
Muscat has since followed Postecoglou’s path to manage Japanese club Yokohama F. Marinos, after four A-League Men championships as a player and coach with Melbourne Victory.
The 48-year-old believes Postecoglou’s title teams with Brisbane and Yokohama have left a lasting legacy in their respective countries.
“One way to describe Japanese football, the national team and the competition, is conservative,” Muscat told SEN Breakfast.
“Over the years it’s been a conservative competition, and their style of play has been conservative, however in the last four or five years, that has started to change.
“They’re a lot more adventurous now, we know how technical the individuals are and how technical the teams are.”
When Postecoglou signed on to manage Brisbane Roar in 2009, he implemented a possession-based game no A-League Men team has been able to replicate since.
After a stint as national manager that delivered two World Cup berths and an Asian Cup victory on home soil, he took his expansive football to the J1 League.
Marinos found themselves in a relegation scrap early, having leaked goals while they built passing chemistry, but Postecoglou had the players’ and supporters’ trust.
The next season he took them from 12th to the very top, and in doing so delivered Yokohama’s first title in 15 seasons.
Muscat says Postecoglou’s tactical courage and optimism has encouraged greater expression in Japanese football.
“There’s so many styles creeping into the game, and obviously Ange was a catalyst four years ago,” Muscat went on.
“He flipped the conservative approach on its head, and was really aggressive in the way he went about things.
“Since then, clubs and coaches have moved away from the conservative 4-4-2 (formation) and the conservative approach.
“It’s a wonderful competition, and a strong competition with three professional leagues. It’s somewhere I’ve really settled into, and I’m enjoying it.”
Despite the clear blueprint left behind in Brisbane and Yokohama, Postecoglou’s credentials were called into question when he was headhunted by the Bhoys.
“When Ange did arrive I said on some other forum that it was a predictable response,” Muscat recalled.
“Some really high-profile people didn’t cover themselves in glory with their lack of knowledge, lack of research and pure laziness, really.”
Postecoglou last week claimed his first piece of silverware as Celtic boss, with a Kyogo Furuhashi brace helping the Bhoys to a 1-2 comeback win over Hibernian in the Scottish League Cup final at Hampden Park.
Muscat, who played on the other side of the Old Firm in 2002-03 where he was part of Rangers’ treble-winning team, says the Australian’s success is indicative of the health of Scottish football.
“It’s great to see, and I think it’s good for the competition as well,” Muscat added.
“Celtic seem to have steadied under Ange, and he’s brought something totally different to what they’ve seen in recent years.
“Rangers have changed managers also, with Steven Gerrard going to Aston Villa and Giovanni van Bronckhorst coming in.
“I think that freshness from both sides of the city and the football that’s being played… it’s good for Scottish football.”