Celtic’s Ange Postecoglou has spoken about the differences and pressures when stepping up from a player to a manager, and balancing work and family life. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, the manager also reveals his advice to young coaches and why social media is having a negative impact on mental health.
Postecoglou joined Celtic last summer from Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan and has led the Parkhead side to the brink of the Scottish Premiership title plus League Cup success in his first season.
After an exciting playing career that has taken him into management, he talks about the pressures that come with the role.
He told Sky Sports News: “It’s not a change of job. It’s a lifestyle choice. You’re literally 24/7. It’s just that kind of occupation, and I’ve heard managers who say they try and switch off, but the reality is it’s very difficult to.
“I’ve often said to young managers who get into it, that you have got to understand that if you don’t embrace that side of it and learn to manage that side of it, you’re going to find the existence very difficult because there is never a moment where you can switch your phone off because there could be a critical bit of news coming down that line and you’ve got to be responsible for it. So, you’ve constantly got to be on alert.”
Postecoglou, who managed the Australia national team from 2013 to 2017, departed Yokohama F Marinos after guiding them to the J1 League title in 2019, the club’s first league title in 15 years.
Postecoglou’s managerial career has led him to many countries including Australia, Japan and now Scotland. Often, it’s not just managers that have to relocate but also their families.
He said: “You’ve got to also make sure that you’re dividing time to them because ultimately, they’re making the sacrifices, when I talk about lifestyle choice, it’s not a lifestyle choice for me. It’s a lifestyle choice for the family.
“Having a strong family unit and again, embracing that this is a lifestyle that we’re going to go down. It definitely helps.”
When asked about how he copes under pressure, the first-team manager said: “You always have this competitive streak inside you. And again, something I tell young managers is that the pain of a loss in your first year doesn’t diminish as the years go on. You know, you still feel it.
“We lost the semi-final [Scottish Cup] to Rangers, and I had friends over here from Australia I haven’t seen for two years, we had dinner organised after. I didn’t turn up, my wife had to host them, they understand because they’re my mates and they still have a nice dinner in spite of that.
“But you know, it’s something that you kind of hope you learn to deal with better as you get older.”
The former Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory head coach also reveals how he coped as an outsider managing different teams:
“The way I’ve coped with all those things is by having a really strong family unit. I’ve got a great group of friends that I’ve had since I was eight years old. I haven’t changed that,” he added.
“The difficult bits and the challenging bits of what I do, I always counterbalance with, if you walk into a room of school kids who are eight years old, and you ask all of them what they want to be when they grow up.
“A real small percentage realise those dreams. I’m one of those kids. I always balance out the hard stuff to say, well, you know what? I’m actually doing what I love.”
When asked about the abuse managers face from the side-lines, Postecoglou said: “I think what’s tougher for managers is that particularly now with social media and sort of the all-encompassing obsession with the game, to have an opinion from every quarter, is that it doesn’t stop at the end of a game.
“In the past, whatever was coming from over the fence, you didn’t like it and still don’t like it, but you can deal with it. And they know that there’s probably going to be 24 hours before the next day’s newspapers come out, where you have to maybe deal with it again.”
“But now the final whistle goes, and you still have to deal with it, which I think it’s why you see that managers probably don’t react as well to what’s coming from the other side of the fence now, because it’s constant, you know, there’s no respite from it.”
Postecoglou thinks it’s now much tougher for young managers than when he started his managerial journey.
“So, if you’re a young manager going into it and you kind of want to create something special, have these visions, it’s tough you know, and it’s tough for players. It’s tough for managers.
“My advice to young managers is to get good people around them and actually get somebody within their staff who is going to be a bit of a sounding board for them because I think you need it.”
When asked how he carries the hopes of the nation on his shoulders, he said: “You’ve got to try and use it in a positive way rather than let it sort of bear down on you. Once you start thinking about your job security or your longevity in the role, then I think it becomes too overbearing, particularly in today’s world.
“I think you’ve just got to stay clear on why you do what you do. You love the fact that every weekend is a game to be won and lost.”
The official theme for Mental Health Awareness week is loneliness and runs from May 9-15. You can get more information and the help available on the website.
If you are affected by issues related to mental wellbeing or want to talk, please contact the Samaritans on the free helpline 116 123, or visit the website.