ANGE Postecoglou, the Celtic manager, has insisted that he will not compromise his footballing principles regardless of the price he may have to pay for them.

Kyogo Furuhashi became the latest player to add to what has been a lengthy injury list throughout the campaign when he pulled up with what seemed to be a hamstring problem during the final Europa League win against Real Betis on Thursday night.

The Japanese playmaker had only been introduced to take over from Albian Ajeti who had gone off with a similar complaint midway through the opening half.

The count for Celtic players nursing hamstring injuries sits at six across the last two months with the Greek Australian accepting that the high intensity training and game schedule could be a contributing factor. Not that there will be any deviation from it, despite the cluttered nature of the December landscape.

“It’s not a concern,” he said. “It’s obviously something we want to get on top of but it’s not new to me either. The way we play I kind of understand and have done at the clubs I’ve been at that the beginnings are always difficult.

“We play differently and train differently and it takes players time to adjust to that and along the way we obviously pay a price. People forget that a lot of these guys didn’t do a pre-season with us and came in late and we’ve been playing catch up the whole way through. But the one thing I’ve never done, and I won’t do in my whole career, is compromise the football team we want to be because we are not quite ready to be there.

“I’d rather sort-of keep going at the pace we are going and it means we are going to have some casualties along the way and lost a few. But I still think, for us as football team and club as we try to grow to be a certain type of side that plays a certain brand of football, it is just part of the process.

“You know, we’ll get better at making sure our players don’t pick up these kind of injuries though the fixture scheduling makes it even more challenging. It is stuff we need to deal with and we will but we won’t compromise, and I won’t compromise, on the football we play, or the way we train because I know in the long-term that is going to give us the success we need.”

Celtic’s Europa League campaign concluded with nine points, a return that may have afforded access into the knock-out stages of the tournament had it been an alternative group; four teams progressed with the same amount of points. There is an argument that the Betis game would have been played out differently had both teams needed to win but in any case the European campaign as a whole showed both sides of Postecoglou’s Celtic.
With 13 goals scored across the six games, Celtic’s attack was bettered only by three other teams. By contrast, though, the 15 conceded was the worst in the competition. 

“Obviously we don’t want to concede that many,” said Postecoglou. “Ultimately, like I said, it is the approach we want to take. We want to be a team that is exciting to watch and scores goals against the very best opposition and through that we obviously want to improve our defensive play and I feel that has happened. Notwithstanding of the fact we have had some really good teams in our group with some outstanding individuals and have worked through that too. 

“I think we’ve made progress as the games have gone on and the pleasing thing for me is that we made a decision to tackle these games a certain way, irrespective of the opponents. We certainly could have played the whole group a bit differently and been a bit more defensive minded and tried to hold out against real quality sides.

“My view was let’s go out there and test ourselves against the very best and if we fall short at least we know the areas we need to improve. And we’ve done that every game, we’ve really tested ourselves home and away and we have made progress in that. We have scored goals, created chances, against the very best and defensively we have slowly improved our performances. I think that has been the ultimate measure for us and while we are disappointed not to go through, to win three games in a difficult group and score goals means we have made progress through the group.” 

Conference League football will await in the New Year but of more immediate concern is this afternoon’s game against Motherwell.  

“They have been on a great run recently and are a hard team to break down,” said Postecoglou. “We know it is going to be a great challenge for us. And after last night we don’t look beyond that. Our focus is making sure the team we put out on Sunday is ready to tackle that challenge. That has been our process all the way through and why we have been able to maintain a really good consistency in performance. 

“We have been pretty good to treat each game on its own merits and make sure we give every opponent the same respect, and the respect they deserve.”