THE Celtic players may, as their manager put it in the wake of the Europa League win over AZ Alkmaar on Wednesday night, be running on empty just now after playing eight intense and important games since the new season got underway this time last month.

But Ange Postecoglou himself? He is raring to go again. The Greek-Australian coach is loving life at Parkhead just now and counting the hours until the cinch Premiership encounter with St Mirren kicks off in the East End of Glasgow this afternoon.

Having watched his team put the disappointment of their Champions League exit to Midtjylland and opening league defeat to Hearts at Tynecastle firmly behind them and record five wins on the bounce, Postecoglou is relishing every minute of his new role despite the demands on him to succeed.

Asked at Lennoxtown yesterday if the punishing schedule of domestic and European fixtures had taken their toll on him as well as his men, he said: “I’m all right mate. I don’t run around at all. I just sit down and do what I do. I’m enjoying it.

“I’ve been through these periods before when as a manager you feel like you’re not doing a lot of training, so you can’t get out there and work with the players. You have to find other ways to get information across and rely on other people to get the players back up in terms of recovery.

“But I’ve still got bags of energy so there are no problems there. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.”

The former Australia and Yokohama F Marinos manager has been involved in the game long enough to appreciate the rich vein of form which Celtic are currently in and the feeling of euphoria among the fans about their swashbuckling displays will not last forever.

We are still, despite the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions and the long-awaited return of fans to stadiums, living in uncertain times and anything, a costly defeat, a spate of injuries, a dip in form, could lie ahead.

When St Mirren announced their manager Jim Goodwin had tested positive for coronavirus and would miss the Premiership match later today it was a stark reminder that Scottish football still has some way to go on the long road back to normality.  

Postecoglou and his squad members still have to observe strict regulations to play professionally and all understand only too well from past experience that their progress could easily be disrupted by events entirely outwith their control. 

“That’s our existence at the moment,” he said. “I know things are beginning to get back to semi-normal out there, but, within the confines of our walls at Lennoxtown, we’re still following all the protocols.

“I stick to my remit. There are people more qualified than me, with years and years of education and experience, to make these kinds of calls. If a medical professional came in to the building and told me how to pick my first XI, I’d pretty much tell him where to go. And he could tell me where to go when it came to protocols.

“There’s still mask wearing and social distancing. We’re protecting ourselves because it’s still part of society. It still has an impact in society and in sport. We very much live with it as an organisation. Hopefully Jim won’t have any symptoms and he gets back on the coaching bench quickly.”

Many of Celtic’s summer signings, not least Liel Abada, Kyogo Furuhashi and Joe Hart, have settled in to their new surroundings quickly and shown exactly why Postecoglou was so eager to bring them on board.

The inability of the new recruits like Albian Ajeti, Vasilis Barkas and Shane Duffy to justify their hefty transfer fees and considerable wages last season was one of the reasons the Parkhead club’s bid to complete 10-In-A-Row ended in disappointment and failure.

The Glasgow giants’ manager saw first hand the toll the pandemic took on players last term when he was in charge of Yokohama F Marinos in the J League. He feels he has benefitted from this country coming out of lockdown since being appointed.

“We brought in 11 foreigners last year at Yokohama,” he said. “They couldn’t bring their families across to Japan and they were living on their own. It was tough for them. So I’m sure it had an impact, most definitely.

“It’s been helpful this year that the new guys coming in are all a bit more relaxed in terms of being able to get out and not having to be cooped up in their places after training. I’m sure it’s been helpful.

“But it’s also a credit to the players we have brought in. They’ve bought into a  culture here, they’ve bought into life here. Whether that’s Kyogo or Liel who have come from the other side of the world, even guys like Carl (Starfelt) and Joe. James (McCarthy) probably comes from about a couple of kilometres away.

“But they have all come in and embraced what we are trying to do. They’ve had positive starts on the field, which also helps. All those factors are relevant.”

Postecoglou will, with one eye on the second leg of the Europa League play-off against AZ in the Netherlands on Thursday, makes changes to his side against St Mirren today.

But McCarthy, the Republic of Ireland midfielder who missed pre-season and has only made substitute appearances against Hearts and Alkmaar to date, will not be rushed into the starting line-up.

“James is getting closer,” he said.  “We’re trying to get him some game time. It’s difficult, particularly in his position, when you are coming on in games, and it’s sometimes frenetic, like it was on Wednesday. He doesn’t have time to work his way in to the game. In the course of the next few weeks he’ll build up his fitness.

“It’s great to have this run of home games where we can just build some momentum. We’re going to hit the road after this game and that will provide a different  kind of challenge. But it’s certainly been helpful to have this run and helpful for us to have our supporters behind us.”