THAT Ange Postecoglou had only worked once before in Europe, and for a brief 10 month spell at a third tier outfit in his native Greece 13 years earlier at that, was seen as a potential problem by some when he was appointed Celtic manager back in June.

How could being in charge of Panachaiki possibly prepare Postecoglou for Parkhead? Surely he would struggle to cope with the fervour of the fans, the demands to win every match, the adverse reaction to defeats?

Those who questioned the wisdom of bringing in someone whose experience of the game in the Northern Hemisphere was practically non-existent, and there were many of them, suspected that trouble lay ahead. 

Yet, the Athens-born coach has revealed how his stint in Patras was the perfect dress rehearsal for life in Paradise and explained how the passion of the fanatical Greek supporters had actually whetted his appetite for the challenge that faced him in Glasgow.

Looking back on his move to his homeland in 2008, he said: “That was a tricky time. It was probably the only time in my career, where there was a little bit of uncertainty. I was working pretty regularly up until then, but my tenure with the national youth teams came to an end.

“I was struggling to get a job back in Australia. I always had belief in my own abilities, but I then got the chance to go to Greece.

“Even though I am Greek, they saw me as a foreigner, as an Aussie. My command of the Greek language wasn’t great at the time, but it was an important period for me.

“I had all these theories in my head about coaching when I took on that job, so to be able to work on them was great. It allowed me to experiment on what worked, and what didn’t. 

“I had a group of players who were totally different to my own culture and upbringing in Australia. But I just found the experience really rejuvenating in terms of my career and my beliefs.

“It really helped me going forward. I still use some of the methods I worked on and put into practice during that time in Greece.”

Postecoglou has been on something of a rollercoaster since rocking up in the East End in the summer; Celtic fans have gone from being sceptical he is the right man to lead them forward to hailing him as some sort of Antipodean football messiah.

The extreme reactions to defeat and victory, to success and failure, to bad displays and sparkling performances, have been nothing new to the Greek-Australian. He went through it all, and much, much more, when he was at Panachaiki.

Speaking as he got preparations for Celtic’s encounter with holders St Johnstone in the Premier Sports Cup semi-final at Hampden on Saturday evening underway at Lennoxtown, he recalled how he was even giving an ear-bashing by a priest after one reverse. 

“I loved the chaos of Greece,” he said. “I love Greek football and how you go from one extreme to the other so quickly.

“The same people who wanted to carry you on their shoulders after a win would be having a go at you outside the bus seven days later. I could see their faces - it was exactly the same people.

“But I loved that. It sort of lit a fire inside me at the time and since then things have gone well. That time in Greece just showed me that I love being around passionate football people. The fans were very passionate and if we lost, they’d let you know they weren’t happy.”

Postecoglou added: “I remember once we lost a game and I was crossing the street the next day. The local priest stopped me. He started questioning my substitutions in the game and that summed it up.

“The whole city was enraptured by their team and I loved that. It just showed me that I was comfortable in that sort of environment. There was nothing I needed to fear.

“Working under that scrutiny wasn’t going to change me, or give me stress. Greece showed me that was the type of environment that I did want to be in.

“Before I came to Celtic, people weren’t warning me as such, but they tried to prepare me for what I was going to face. But what they didn’t realise is that this is exactly what I want. This is where I want to be, where I have always wanted to be. That part of it wasn’t daunting for me at all.”

Postecoglou’s man management has been impressive during his six months at Celtic. He has been prepared to shoulder full responsibility for bad results rather than single out individuals for blame. It is no coincidence that his players have always, win, lose or draw, given their all for him whenever they have taken to the field.

He certainly learned invaluable lessons about how to deal with disparate characters when he was at Panachaiki which have stood him in good stead ever since.

“We played against a local team and we drew 0-0,” he said. “I wasn’t happy and I was giving a post-match talk to the players. One of them, a Brazilian, was standing with his back to me. He was in front of the sink with his head down.

“There was a noise coming and I wondered if he was really upset so I went over to him. I then realised he was hunched over his coffee machine - grinding beans. He was making a frappe while I was trying to tear strips off them in the dressing-room.

“I was amazed. He was oblivious to what was going on around him. That was a first. To be honest, if it ever happened again, which it won’t, then I would deal with it the same way. I had a chuckle to myself back then and made a note for the book.”

Ange Postecoglou is currently writing an exciting new chapter in his career at Celtic – thanks to his days in the dugout at Panachaiki.