This is the second part of five articles charting the inside story of Ange Postecoglou's little-heralded first spell in European football. You can read part one HERE.

The task that lay ahead of Ange Postecoglou when he took over at Celtic in 2021 was considerable and there were not many in Scottish football who fancied his chances of succeeding and surviving.

The little-known Greek-Australian coach was charged with making the Parkhead club the dominant force in the country once again after a wretched trophyless season.

He also had to get their legions of deeply disgruntled supporters – some of whom had staged angry protests outside the front of the stadium as the bid to make history and complete 10-In-A-Row had unravelled in spectacular fashion - back onside.

The transformation that Postecoglou, who was the Glasgow outfit’s second choice to replace Neil Lennon after former Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, has overseen since has been as unexpected as it has been remarkable.

It was not, however, the first time that he had travelled across the globe to Europe and resurrected the fortunes of a fallen giant in difficult circumstances against seemingly insurmountable odds to the delight and disbelief of their fans.

He performed exactly the same feat with Panachaiki in his native Greece back in 2008.

The Herald:

Vaggelis Gerogiannis, a journalist with Patras newspaper Peloponnisos who covered his local team during Postecoglou’s rollercoaster 10-month spell as manager, recalled how there had been, as was the case two years ago in this country, widespread scepticism about how the new manager would fare when he arrived.

“I was very close to the club at the time,” he said. “The owner Con Makris told us that he was going to bring a very famous coach to Patras who was going to work very hard to bring success to Panachaiki.

“But the truth was nobody expected that Postecoglou would bring so much to Panachaiki. Because I felt Con Makris was a man who didn’t know so much about football. Normally his choices were bad for the team, very bad.

“These days, the biggest opponent Panachaiki have is their financial difficulties. Back then, the biggest problem was Con Makris. This man was very wealthy and had a lot of money to spend. The problem was that he had no idea about football.

“When he came to Patras in 2005, the club was in the second tier. They got relegated in their first year. A lot of people around him lied to him and stole money from him. But he didn’t learn any lessons because he made exactly the same mistakes in his second year. He was both the solution and the problem.

“Bringing in Postecoglou wasn’t a bad decision of course. But at first, we didn’t know who he was. We knew he was a Greek-Australian who had coached in Australia. But that was it. Nobody knew him or expected much from him.

“It was very difficult for him in the beginning. The circumstances were hard. Financially, there were no problems at that time. But the environment of the club was not good. The demands of the fans were too high. He had to prove to them that he was the best coach for Panachaiki at that period.”

READ PART 1 HERE: Inside Ange Postecoglou's dramatic spell in Greece

Sound familiar? Postecoglou was, as was very much true when he took over at Celtic, undeterred by the negativity surrounding his appointment. He was convinced he could make an impact and oversee an upturn in fortunes. He set about his work with trademark vigour.

The Herald:

Having left Greece for Australia with his family when he was six, he struggled initially with the language barrier because his use of his native tongue had waned in the years he had been living abroad. But he quickly adapted and was soon getting an important message over to the players who he had inherited.

He was shocked at the time-wasting antics and general ill-discipline of his charges in one of the first games he took charge of against a local village side.

In the dressing room after the 0-0 draw he quietly, but forcibly, explained to them that in order to improve and flourish they had to play a different way from their opponents, work hard from kick-off to the final whistle, attack at every available opportunity and enjoy their football.

They quickly embraced their new manager’s alien philosophy and were soon showing promising signs of progress on the park as a result.

After the 2007/08 campaign had ended, Postecoglou contacted Peter Cklamovski, who had been his fitness coach with the Australia Under-17 and Under-20 teams, and asked if he would consider joining him in Patras as his assistant. His old compadre jumped at the opportunity. “He finished off the remainder of the season and decided to stay on,” he said. “That is when I got called in. There was no hesitation from me. As soon as he proposed the idea I had no second thoughts.

“I was pumped to go with him, work hard, be by his side and keep learning from him. I had no questions. I was there for him. I went with passion and enthusiasm. It was a helluva chapter for us.”

Cklamovski, who worked as No 2 during his mentor’s subsequent stints with Australia and Yokohama F Marinos before going on to make a name for himself as a manager in his own right with Shimizu S-Pulse and Montedio Yamagata in Japan, quickly discovered exactly what his old associate had been contending with when he arrived.

“Speaking to you about Panachaiki has brought some memorable flashbacks to me,” he said. “It was a real culture shock for both us and them at the same time – in the respect of our expectations, the way we trained, the way we worked and the intensity of our football.

“That has never changed for Ange. That has been a consistent mandate. His football has always been high-octane, high-intensity. You guys know that better than anyone now right? You can see that at Celtic now. It is a big feature of Ange’s football.

“But it was a massive culture shock for Greek football and also for our team back in 2008. I can remember we were working hard in pre-season. We had limited resources. But we had a few opportunities to monitor players with heart rate monitors and different devices. The players nearly had heart attacks because of how hard we working.

“That was one culture shock for them. For us, it was just our expectation, our demand, our belief. The main surprise to us was how easy they took it. As I say, that was a culture shock for us.

“But that is where the synergy comes in. You don’t have to adjust, you have to work out the players and come up with a way to get the best out of them. We did that. They were all for it. Once they got into the groove they were flying.

“That turned into a massive advantage for us when the competition started because we were fitter than everyone and were playing at a higher tempo than us. Nobody could keep up with us.”

Postecoglou has made many exceptional signings as Celtic manager in the past two years. Joe Hart, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Carl Starfelt, Josip Juranovic, Alastair Johnston, Reo Hatate, Liel Abada, Jota, Daizen Maeda and Kyogo Furuhashi have all excelled and become firm fan favourites.

He enjoyed the same success in the transfer market at Panachaiki in his first window. Greek defender Georgios Diamantis, Liberian midfielder Oliver Makor and Argentinian striker Fabian Caballero all proved to be value for money and helped their new team to make a blistering start to the 2008/09 season.

The Herald:

“The budget wasn’t big,” said Cklamovski. “It didn’t give us a lot to play around with. We were not going to get everything that we wished for.

“But something that Ange and I were used to coming from an Australian football environment was being really creative with how you use your budget. We had to prioritise and decide what was going to make the biggest impact on our environment, how it would connect to what we do every day in training and then put that everyday approach into the game. That is what we did do.”

Gerogiannis was, like so many in Patras, stunned and delighted by the turnaround he witnessed.

“Nobody expected a man who knew his job so well, who worked so hard, who was so respectful with his players, with journalists, with the fans and with the staff,” he said. “With his hard work, Postecoglou managed to show he was the best manager for Panachaiki.

“He had a very good relationship with the players. He showed that he was very good at psychology with his players. The team played very good football under him. They played very disciplined football. It became clear early on that Ange was a fan of discipline.

“The players loved him. He was not open with them or close with them, but they loved him all the same. They knew that under him they were going to have justice, they would be treated fairly. They also realised that they would play better football. As I say, they loved him.”

That is backed up by one of the new recruits who Postecoglou brought in to boost Panachaiki’s chances of winning promotion from the Gamma Ethniki to the Beta Ethniki – former Dundee forward Caballero.

The story of Ange Postecoglou's dramatic spell in Greece continues tomorrow.