Celtic's clash with Rangers on January 2 has been postponed by a month after Scottish Premiership clubs voted in favour of bringing forward the mid-season break.

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday that all outdoor events in the country would be limited to 500 spectators for at least three weeks from December 26 amid a rise in coronavirus cases.

That would have meant the first Old Firm derby of 2022 practically being held behind closed doors, but there is hope that restrictions will be eased – or entirely lifted – by the time the Glasgow rivals meet in the rescheduled fixture on February 2.

Scottish Premierships teams will now start their three-week break after the Boxing Day round of fixtures, rather than on January 3, and the league will resume on January 17.

Games that were due to be played on December 29 and January 2-3, which also includes the Edinburgh and Dundee derbies, have been moved to January 17-18 and February 1-2 respectively.

Neil Doncaster, SPFL chief executive, said in a statement released on Wednesday: "We have had intense and positive discussions with all cinch SPFL clubs over the past 24 hours, since the announcement by the Scottish government of a three-week period of restrictions on fans attending matches. 

"We have advised our clubs that any postponements increase the risk of further disruption to an already highly congested fixture calendar.

"There are mixed views amongst cinch Premiership clubs about what to do for the best. However, a majority favour the postponement of fixtures to give a chance for games scheduled to be played over the festive period to be played in front of fans, once the three-week period of restrictions comes to an end. 

"The SPFL Board has agreed to postpone the 29 December and New Year Premiership fixture cards.

"Championship, League 1 and League 2 clubs voted to continue playing through the government restrictions and we look forward to their festive fixtures over the next fortnight.

"We would like to place on record our sincere thanks to Sky Sports and Police Scotland for their flexibility in accommodating these changes and to all cinch SPFL clubs for their clear, positive and constructive feedback as we work together to get through the challenges posed by COVID-19."

Celtic's clash with Rangers on January 2 will only be attended by 500 spectators after a change in coronavirus measures in Scotland.

With COVID-19 cases rising across the United Kingdom, Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the new restrictions on Tuesday.

The rules, which will be in place from Boxing Day, limit the amount of people allowed to attend public events.

Outdoor events have a capacity of 500, with each spectator having to have at least one metre of space between them.

The regulations will be in place for at least three weeks.

This effectively signals a return to behind-closed-doors games in Scotland, though the country's competitions do take a winter break after January 3.

Celtic host champions and Premiership leaders Rangers a week after the regulations come into effect, while Hearts and Hibernian face off in the Edinburgh derby a day later.

On Monday, Premier League clubs confirmed they would not postpone a round of fixtures set to be played on December 28, 29 and 30 in England.

Belgium assistant coach Shaun Maloney has left his post to become manager of Hibernian.

Maloney was brought onto the coaching staff by Belgium boss Roberto Martinez – who managed him as a player at Wigan Athletic – in September 2018.

The former Scotland international has been part of the Red Devils set-up throughout their stay at the top of the FIFA World Rankings, and was Martinez's assistant during their run to the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.

The 38-year-old now leaves to take his first job as a manager, joining a Hibernian side that are seventh in the Scottish Premiership with 23 points from 18 games.

If Kyogo Furuhashi is any indication, Celtic should be looking to Japan for more players, right?

Former Yokohama F.Marinos boss Ange Postecoglou used his J1 League insight to lure the previously unheralded Kyogo to Parkhead and what a signing it has proven to be – the Japan international has taken Glasgow by storm with 14 goals in all competitions.

Now, Celtic manager Postecoglou is reportedly preparing another raid on Japan's top flight, including his former club, to help bolster his title-chasing side in the January transfer window.

F.Marinos star and joint Golden Boot winner Daizen Maeda, Kawasaki Frontale utility Reo Hatate and Gamba Osaka's Yosuke Ideguchi are believed to be all closing in on moves to Celtic as the Bhoys' Japanese contingent grows.

With speculation mounting, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind the trio, using Opta data.

 

Daizen Maeda, Yokohama F.Marinos

Postecoglou leaned on his experiences as a rival coach to prise Kyogo from Andres Iniesta's Vissel Kobe at the start of the season, but it is a completely different matter regarding Maeda, who was signed by the Australian coach, initially on loan in 2020.

Following a difficult loan spell in Portugal via Maritimo, Postecoglou turned to Maeda after leading F.Marinos to their drought-ending J1 League title the season prior. The 24-year-old has not looked back, taking his game to a new level with the runners-up in 2021.

The two-time Japan international shared the Golden Boot with Frontale talisman Leandro Damiao after the pair both scored 23 goals, while he was named in the league's Best XI.

With pace to burn and the ability to play on the flank or through the middle, Maeda fits Postecoglou's high-octane brand of football and pressing philosophy to a tee – he tallied the most sprints across the league (1,457), well ahead of Consadole Sapporo's Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa (869).

Maeda, who likes to cut inside from the left, also led J1 League in shots on target (51), shooting accuracy (63 per cent), big chance total (33), big chance scored (18), expected goals (21.3) and touches in the opposition box (190). He was second for total shots (92) and shot conversion rate (23.9).

 

"I never imagined I would end the season as top scorer in the league. I feel I have been able to prove I was a good signing here," Maeda, who could provide another dynamic to Celtic's attack having scored a joint-league-high six headed goals, said at the end of the season. "As always it was great to score, but I would have liked to have ended the season with a win.

"I've had a great season although I am disappointed we never managed to win the title, but on a personal level, I am very proud I was able to finish as top scorer. I always want more goals. You can never score enough.

"I believe this team can go on and have a great season next year too. Whatever happens, Marinos are a great club. I've never hidden my ambition to play in Europe. When I tried before in Portugal, Covid ruined it for me. This season has changed everything for me. Goals and a call-up for my country. For me, it's just the start."

 

Reo Hatate, Kawasaki Frontale

If Celtic want a man that can cover a number of positions, Hatate is their guy.

A defender, midfielder or forward, Hatate is coming off his second successive top-flight crown with the league's dominant force Frontale, who have won the title in four of the last five years.

Hatate has played a key role in helping maintain Frontale's dominance since making his debut in 2018.

The versatile 24-year-old – who has not played abroad, unlike Maeda or Ideguchi – is fresh off a stellar season that saw him named in J1 League's Best XI.

Like 2020, Hatate scored five goals in 30 appearances, while he supplied two assists in the league as he often played in the middle of the pitch, though he can also be deployed at left-back.

Comfortable on the ball and secure in possession, Hatate boasted a passing accuracy of 82.1 per cent in 2021. As for his creativity, he created 33 chances, highlighting his vision. He ranked in the top five for shots on target (third, 22), total shots (fourth, 59) and passes in opposition half (five, 1,297) among all defenders and midfielders.

Covering plenty of ground, Hatate also demonstrated his defensively capabilities throughout the campaign with 45 interceptions and 159 duels won, with a 53.4 success rate.

 

 

Yosuke Ideguchi, Gamba Osaka

Of the three players targeted by Celtic, the 25-year-old is somewhat the most surprising.

Labelled "wonderful" previously by former Manchester United playmaker Shinji Kagawa, Ideguchi endured a forgettable time in Europe – he joined then-Championship outfit Leeds United on a four-and-a-half-year contract in 2018 but never made an appearance for the club.

Ideguchi then bounced around on loan at Cultural Leonesa in Spain and Greuther Furth in Germany before returning to boyhood club Gamba Osaka, where he has excelled across two spells.

A player with a lot of potential upside, Ideguchi is more of a holding midfielder and is capable of finding the back of the net.

Ideguchi – part of the Gamba team that tasted domestic success via the J1 League (2014), Emperor's Cup (2014 and 2015), J.League Cup (2014) and Japanese Super Cup (2015) prior to his Leeds departure – is coming off a 29-game season, his most since the 2017 campaign.

While he did not score or register an assist, unlike the season prior when he scored four times and teed up three goals, Ideguchi's work rate and tenacity was invaluable for Gamba.

In 2021, the 15-time Japan international won 55.5 per cent of his tackles with 36 interceptions and 78 duels won. Since 2019, Ideguchi is a top-10 midfielder in tackles (fifth, 145), tackles won (fifth, 85) and interceptions (10th, 109).

 

Steven Gerrard could not wait any longer for a chance like the Aston Villa job, according to former Liverpool left-back Stephen Warnock.

Liverpool great Gerrard took his first job in management at Rangers in 2018, guiding the club to their first Scottish Premiership title in a decade last term after finishing second in consecutive seasons.

Gerrard decided to swap Ibrox for Villa Park in November after now Norwich City head coach Dean Smith parted ways with Villa following five straight Premier League defeats.

The former midfielder has started well with his new team, registering three wins from his opening four matches, with the only blemish on his record so far a credible 2-1 home loss against league leaders Manchester City.

Indeed, since Gerrard's appointment, Villa sit third in the English top flight over the last four games, with only City and Liverpool (both four) winning more games.

Former team-mate Warnock, who played for Liverpool between 2002 and 2007, believes Gerrard made the right move by taking up an unmissable opportunity with the Villans.

"To get an offer like Aston Villa, I think it was just an opportunity that he couldn't turn down," Warnock told Stats Perform.

"When you think of those types of jobs, how often do they come up? It was one of those situations. If he had waited until the end of the season, would that job have come up at the end of the season? I don't think it would. 

"Then it's two or three years waiting for another huge club. So, I think it was the perfect time for him to make the move.

"What he wants to do now is, he wants to test himself against the best managers in world football. In the Premier League, I'd say we've probably got the best four, arguably, when you look at [Pep] Guardiola, [Jurgen] Klopp, [Thomas] Tuchel and then [Antonio] Conte coming into that category as well.

"So you're putting yourself against some incredible managers; then he's going into somewhere where the club is ambitious and they've got finances, and they're going to back you in the transfer market. 

"There's an opportunity to draw players into the Premier League. Aston Villa itself is steeped in history, he feels that he can push them up the league, he can start putting them into European places. 

"Then it's a very healthy club to be at. I'm fortunate, I played for Aston Villa, I understand the magnitude of the club, how big it is, the pressure that comes with it, that will suit Steven Gerrard down to the ground."

Gerrard heads back to Anfield on Saturday to take on Klopp's side, though only three ex-Reds have managed victory on their return in 18 attempts in the Premier League. Kevin Keegan overcame his old side twice with Newcastle United and Manchester City, while Kenny Dalglish triumphed with his Blackburn Rovers outfit in 1993.

Nevertheless, Warnock expects Gerrard to want to prove a point in his Merseyside homecoming in what could seemingly serve as an early managerial interview, should Klopp ever decide to vacate his role at Liverpool.

"It's going to be a special moment for him in many different ways," Warnock said of Gerrard taking on his former side.

"He used to walk out from that tunnel as a player, not as a manager and especially not on the opposition bench. I mean, the occasion is going to be big, because Steven Gerrard returning to Anfield is a huge thing. 

"The fans will want to see the style of football that Aston Villa play, I think they'll be very interested to see how his team is set up. They'll applaud him win, lose or draw, he'll get a magnificent reception. 

"But Steven will go there wanting to get a result, he'll want to prove the type of manager he is, he'll want to upset Liverpool, because that puts him down on the radar. 

"It puts in people's minds that he's doing a good job at Aston Villa. Now, that is something that his team... he's got to instil that into his team as well. 

"He's got to get across that they're capable of going to Anfield and winning. And that's what winners do. That's what the best do, the elite players do. And the elite managers do as well. And that's what he's going to try and achieve."

Giovanni van Bronckhorst has returned to Ibrox as the new manager of Rangers.

The former Netherlands international has been charged with replacing Steven Gerrard, who left the Scottish Premiership champions to take over as Aston Villa boss last week.

Van Bronckhorst won five trophies with the Glasgow giants in his playing days, including two league titles.

The 46-year-old masterminded Feyenoord's 2016-17 Eredivisie title triumph, while he also lifted the KNVB Cup twice and the Johan Cruyff Shield before taking charge of Chinese Super League club Guangzhou City last year.

Van Bronckhorst is relishing the challenge of winning more honours at Rangers.

The ex-Barcelona and Arsenal man will be fully in charge once he is granted a work permit.

"I am absolutely delighted to be returning to Rangers as the club's new manager," Van Bronckhorst told the Rangers official website.

"I feel so lucky to be going to work with a squad which is in a great position on all fronts and largely has that experience of being winners. I'm grateful for the chance to work again at this huge football club."

Rangers sporting director Ross Wilson revealed Van Bronckhorst had been earmarked as a potential replacement for Gerrard long before the Liverpool legend's departure.

He said: "I am delighted to welcome Gio back to Rangers. He was respected throughout Europe as a player and has already shown why he has that same respect as a coach.

"Gio has already shown himself to be a winner, he knows the club, he knows the quality of the squad and is absolutely aligned with our approach and mindset.

"Gio has been part of a long list of managers we have been tracking for a period of time to ensure we are always ready. When Steven intimated his decision last Wednesday, we immediately got to work on what was then a focused shortlist. We held initial talks within 48 hours and concluded our decision-making within six days of the role becoming available.

"We found agreement with Gio extremely quickly and we have enjoyed working with him on assembling the backroom team that will complement an already excellent support staff that we have built here at Rangers."

Steven Gerrard insists he does not see the Aston Villa job as "a stepping stone" towards becoming Liverpool manager.

The Reds legend took the top job at Villa Park last week, agreeing terms on a deal that runs until 2025 after calling time on his Rangers stint.

Gerrard had guided the Gers to their first Scottish Premiership title success in 10 years last season and left with the Ibrox club four points clear of rivals Celtic.

The 41-year-old takes over a Villans team who lost their last five in a row under Dean Smith, with Gerrard seeking to lead a revival that would enhance his own reputation as a manager.

But he does not see his new club as a stopping-off point en route to a potential return to Liverpool.

"I'm all in, and I will give this job everything that it needs for it to be a success. I'll be 100 per cent committed and so will my staff," Gerrard said at his first Villa media conference on Thursday.

"[It's] very unfair, and you'll never hear me saying it's a stepping stone. For me, I'm really honoured and proud to be in this position.

"There is nothing wrong in football with having dreams and aspirations, but Liverpool have got a world-class coach [in Jurgen Klopp] that they are very happy with.

"If he was to sign a lifetime deal right now, then I would be very happy for them and him."

Gerrard won 125 of his 193 games in charge of Rangers for a win rate of 64.8 per cent, with his longest winning run being a nine-game streak that ended in November 2020.

His first game at the Villa helm is at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, while his return to Anfield will come on December 11.

The former England international is third on the list of all-time appearance makers (710) for Liverpool, and he has been tipped as the likely man to replace Klopp one day.

"He's a great man and a great coach," Gerrard added. "I think Liverpool are very lucky to have him at the helm, and I'm a Liverpool fan, so long may that continue.

"He sent me a message and said he's looking forward to a big hug on the side on 11 December, so it's something for me to look forward to."

Steven Gerrard accepts he is taking a risk by swapping Rangers for Aston Villa but says a new challenge in the Premier League was too big an opportunity to turn down.

The 41-year-old was confirmed as Dean Smith's successor as Villa head coach last Thursday on a reported three-and-a-half-year contract.

Gerrard guided Rangers to a couple of second-place finishes before ending the Glasgow club's 10-year wait for Scottish Premiership title success last season.

He departed Ibrox with the Gers four points clear of Celtic in top spot and with their Europa League knockout-stage hopes still in their own hands with two group games to play.

The Liverpool midfield great is taking on a different challenge in his second senior coaching role, tasked first and foremost with guiding Villa away from the relegation zone.

While fully aware of the task on his hands, Gerrard is relishing the opportunity to manage in a league he spent 17 seasons playing in with Liverpool.

"Aston Villa sells itself – an iconic football club," he told VillaTV. "I know it well from the outside and I'm very much excited to get involved inside and start building relationships.

"I like a challenge. I like a risk. It's something I'm really looking forward to getting into. 

"This club will suit me because I know the fans are very passionate and there's a demand and pressure to win. That's something I've lived with since I was 17.

"I was first aware of Aston Villa's interest last Wednesday. I had a call from my representation, and when the phone call sunk in, I wanted this to happen very quickly, because first and foremost the opportunity was too big."

Gerrard won 125 of his 193 games in charge of Rangers for a win rate of 64.8 per cent, with his longest winning run being a nine-game streak that ended in November 2020.

That compares to a 39.6 per cent win rate for Smith across his 139 Villa matches, but Gerrard admits managing in the English top flight will provide a sterner test.

"I have to respect that the leagues are very different in terms of level, but I've learned a lot over the past three-and-a-half years," he said.

"I've lived under that pressure and demand to win. There was a big building job to be done, and I can walk away with my head held high.

"Going into another league, that's something we'll adapt to. I've played many years in the league, and I've got an experienced group of coaches who are a real rock to me. 

"We'll also use existing staff, so I look forward to building relationships."

Gerrard, whose first Villa game is at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, faces an emotional return to Anfield on December 11.

The former England international is third on the list of all-time appearance makers (710) for Liverpool and he has been tipped as the likely man to replace Jurgen Klopp one day.

However, Gerrard's sole focus for now is on new club Villa, who are two points above the relegation zone following a run of five defeats in a row.

"I don't think me or anyone else will be able to control the noise [regarding Liverpool]," Gerrard said.

"For me that's not important. What's important is the chance to go to Anfield and win. That's the attitude we'll have going into every game. 

"It is what it is. I want to win every game that I play in, now my priority and focus – and everything I will give on a daily basis – will be for Aston Villa.

"One thing I can guarantee the supporters, the players and the staff here: when I commit to something, I'm all in."

Ange Postecoglou is in the midst of the biggest job an Australian coach has held in men's club football.

Postecoglou changed the landscape of the game in Australia and left a legacy in Japan, where he conquered the J1 League with Yokohama F.Marinos before he was lured to Glasgow by a wounded Scottish powerhouse Celtic, dethroned by bitter rivals Rangers.

After some initial backlash, Postecoglou has Celtic fans dreaming of glory through an emphasis on a high-octane style of attacking football and unrelenting belief in his philosophy.

But to get a clear picture of Postecoglou – the most decorated coach in Australian football – and his journey to Parkhead, you have to go back to his days at boyhood club South Melbourne.

Most know about Postecoglou's love for South Melbourne, where his passion for the sport grew alongside his father after immigrating from Greece.

Postecoglou went from juniors to seniors, winning two titles as a player before delivering back-to-back NSL titles as a coach and an unprecedented spot alongside Manchester United at the 2000 Club World Cup in Brazil.

Michael Petersen saw the making of Postecoglou unfold before his eyes. The former South Melbourne and Australia midfielder had been involved with the Australian great since around the age of 10 – the pair initially clashing in a junior rivalry between South and Port Melbourne.

Petersen eventually joined Postecoglou at South Melbourne in the late 1980s.

"He was a natural leader," Petersen told Stats Perform. "In a lot of ways, probably needed to get up to speed personally, but it was an invisible leadership. But he was always serious about his football. He loved the club. So his loyalty was unquestioned."

A trail-blazing coach, Postecoglou's career in the dugout is well-documented but he was also successful on the pitch – the former defender is considered to be one of South Melbourne's greatest players, having won eight pieces of silverware, while earning four international caps for Australia.

However, Postecoglou's career was cut short due to a knee injury.

"He was underestimated [as a player] but obviously he got wiped out pretty young at 27," Petersen said. "I think you're just coming into your professional career [at that age]. At the time, South Melbourne had a lot of good players in all the lines so he probably went a little bit unnoticed but not in our changing room. He was very well respected. You obviously don't make someone captain if you're not first on the teamsheet, so he was always first picked on the teamsheet."

 

Postecoglou's success has been shaped by his father, Dimitris, and legendary Hungarian Ferenc Puskas.

The 56-year-old played under Puskas from 1989 to 1992, forming a close bond, before launching his own coaching career at South Melbourne.

Postecoglou was appointed in 1996 and former general manager Peter Filopoulos was instrumental in the ex-captain's rise from skipper to coach.

"Every time I spoke to Ange, I felt like I was educated about football. Because I was an administrator. I never played at the high level. I was a little bit more educated about South Melbourne's history and he was very proud of South Melbourne history, the club and he always had these really big aspirations for the club, but also big aspirations for football in Australia as he still does," Filopoulos said.

Postecoglou's transition from player to senior coach at South Melbourne almost did not happen following the sacking of former Socceroos boss Frank Arok.

After a 3-0 loss away to Marconi in March 1996, Arok was relieved of his duties and Postecoglou put in charge on an interim basis for the remaining three games of the season.

"I remember getting the long bus trip to the airport from Fairfield and Frank had slumped in his chair and was just sulking a little bit. The players started to misbehave and were bantering. It was as if they had won 3-0, not lost 3-0. I could see Ange to the right of me was just not amused at all right, I'm sitting at the front of the bus as the official. And it got to the stage that it was out of control on the bus," Filopoulos recalled. "He went up to the front of the bus and picked up the microphone. He said, 'You listen to me, you blokes'. It was silent and he said to them, 'I've played for this club from under eights, right through to every level of South Melbourne, I've worn this jersey for every team age group, to the seniors, I captained this club and won championships. If you want to muck around, no problem, we lost 3-0 but I just want to tell you my perspective, today was the worst performance I've seen of any, any South Melbourne team of any age group in my entire career. So if you guys are happy with yourselves, and you want muck around on the bus, why don't you just reflect on the disgraceful performance and how you disgraced the team jersey today and the club'.

"That was it. There was silence for the rest of the bus trip. And then we got to the airport. And there was all these shuffling of the boarding passes. No one wanted to sit next to Ange. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, right? But I remember thinking to myself back then this guy has something special."

However, Postecoglou – who was working in a bank at the time to supplement his salary of being an assistant coach – was not even in the equation to make the step up permanently after winning all three games as South Melbourne's hierarchy eyed bigger and more established names.

"I'd be in the board meetings as a general manager, and they'd be speaking about Zoran Matic and [former Australia coach] Raul Blanco, all those big names of the time. Ange came into the office and he wasn't really mentioned around the table. They all thought he'd automatically be an assistant," Filopoulos said.

"He goes to me what's going on with the coaching gig? And me naively, I said we had a meeting last night and we're talking about Matic and Blanco. And Ange goes, 'What about me big fella?' I said, 'Are you interested?' He said 'Yes I am, I am interested'. I said, 'Well Ange, if you're interested, you need to make it known'. I thought, I wonder what the young fellas thought. We had the younger committee members and older ones. I remember ringing up some committee members and I threw Ange's name in the mix and over a few conversations, you have to give him a chance to present.

"So what I did back then, we were a very close-knit social group, the younger guys and I set up a barbecue at my place. The coaching conversation came up. And everyone's talking about those big names again. And then Ange said, 'You know I'm interested right?' And someone said, 'What? Are you really interested?' Ange started talking about his philosophy and ideas. It went for like 30 minutes. It was like a full-on pitch without knowing it was a pitch. He finished and it was dead silence. The vice-president at the time said 'Ange you're our f****** coach mate'. That was it. We lobbied hard and got him through. It was tough to get it through. There were some really older guys who weren't convinced.

"Ange got the job. And a lot of people would say that was a foresight. I would say, sometimes it was instinctive that it was the right decision. He changed everything. So there's me as general manager, it was actually quite good, because there was all these expectations and all these different things he wanted in place, which meant I worked pretty hard for him to deliver it."

 

But it was not all smooth sailing after fighting tooth and nail to appoint Postecoglou – a run of just one win from seven games to open the 1996-97 season had some South Melbourne committee members calling for Ange's head.

Filopoulos said: "There were a few phone calls from committee members and I remember one guy, he said 'you need to get rid of him at midnight tonight so no one sees him leave the club because you've made a mistake, and because you orchestrated all of this, you can follow him behind'.

"It came down to the eighth game at Marconi for a coach's career, really, because the pressure was on. We won after a scrappy 87th-minute goal. Had we not won that game, it would have been a different future for Ange. The rest is history. After that, he improved our football club. He took it to another level. We became a true destination club."

"So a similar story to Celtic, it takes some time, right? Because he does, on my experience, he turned our program upside down. He has meticulous detail and thought process, even to the point of dressing room access," he added.

Petersen, who also served as Postecoglou's assistant during his tenure as head coach of the Young Socceroos, experienced the "seamless" transition from player to coach up close and personal.

"There's layers to having a good football IQ. There's layers to it," said Petersen, who was told his playing career was ending by Postecoglou. "Ange has always had it. No, not even an issue. Very, very astute. I can rubber stamp that from, from way, way back. And that's to a point is if you love something, you really go deep into it. He goes deep into, you know, picking a football team for any matchday is a bit of a puzzle. You've just got to put the whole thing together, you've got to get the right balance of energy, skill sets. Who's going to actually perform on the day for that given day?

"He doesn't get it wrong a lot. And I can say that, but I think his history shows it. He's managed to get it right on the big days. It's by design, it's not coincidence. He gets it right. You can read all the books in the world. And you either got that gift, or you don't have that gift."

"At the time [after coaching South Melbourne to NSL glory] I thought Ange was Australia’s modern-day version of Alex Ferguson," he continued. "To this day I haven't changed my mind as I have watched him evolve and succeed and continually challenge himself and the type of football his team produces. Ange wins and wins well with style and grace."

 

From South Melbourne to Australia and Japan, Postecoglou has won it all – a pair of National Soccer League championships, back-to-back A-League titles, a record 36-match unbeaten streak at Brisbane Roar, plus a ground-breaking 2015 Asian Cup triumph with the Socceroos and a J1 League crown with F.Marinos – while silencing his doubters.

Postecoglou, like Manchester City's Pep Guardiola and former Juventus and Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri, pushes the boundaries. Firmly set in his belief of how football should be played, Postecoglou's approach never wavers and success follows in his pursuit of excellence.

That has always been the case for Postecoglou.

Recalling Postecoglou's first steps in senior coaching and his pitch-side antics, Petersen – who also worked alongside Ange at South Melbourne after retirement – said: "We almost had a rule, no one was allowed to talk on the bench. If you're gonna say something, it's gotta mean something, otherwise chitter chatter and joking around, none of that. So there's none of this micro-coaching, if you like. Ange was almost locked in tune with the game. He was actually very, very still, quiet and measured."

Postecoglou is known for not getting too close to his players and Petersen added: "I think that's a maturity beyond his years in a sense that he always, because he probably had to start coaching young and he kind of realised early that you do have to draw a line from mateship because players are insecure creatures, and they'll look for any way to get a way in and if you can be pals, you might jag a spot because he likes you.

"Ange never did that. He made decisions that were based on what was best for the club, not necessarily on the individual. Even as a captain, looking back, he was galvanising the hierarchy, the directors of the football club, everything was all about what was best for the football club. I think that's rare to see players who do that. And then already when they transition into assistant coach and then senior coach, you knew there was a line. And that was all right. I think, in the wash-up, once you know the rules of a gaffer, you love it, you go, 'Okay, well, I know where I stand, I've got to perform'. And it's not just performing in games, it's performing at training. We have to perform, every training session means something.

"We joke around in the changing rooms and then we had fun. We had ghetto blasters, telling jokes. I think the moment we hit the football pitch, for that block of time, for an hour and a half, it was business. There's no laughing, football is serious. Because you laugh and joke, you lose football games. So you train how you play. So the intensity should always be at training. I think Ange knew that already at a young age – perform at training, transition that into games, and then whatever happens after hours, yeah, let's have some fun as well."

Liverpool great Steven Gerrard has left Rangers to take over as Aston Villa head coach.

Villa parted ways with Dean Smith on Sunday after a run of five straight Premier League defeats.

Determined to make a swift appointment, it quickly became apparent that Gerrard was Villa's leading candidate, and that move has now been confirmed.

Villa did not announce the length of their new coach's contract, although it is reported to be a two-and-a-half-year deal.

"Aston Villa is a club with a rich history and tradition in English football and I am immensely proud to become its new head coach," Gerrard said.

"In my conversations with Nassef [Sawiris], Wes [Edens] and the rest of the board, it was apparent how ambitious their plans are for the club and I am looking forward to helping them achieve their aims.

"I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everybody associated with Glasgow Rangers for giving me the opportunity to manage such an iconic football club.

"Helping them secure a record-breaking 55th league title will always hold a special place in my heart. I would like to wish the players, staff and supporters the very best for the future."

The former Liverpool and England midfielder, who also played for LA Galaxy, was handed his first senior job in management when he took over at Ibrox in 2018.

Gerrard guided Rangers to second in each of his first two seasons, before they cruised to the Scottish Premiership title last term.

Rangers' success was their first in a decade and ended Celtic's hopes of a 10th consecutive crown.

The Gers are four points clear at the top of the Premiership and still in contention to make the Europa League knockout stage, but Gerrard has decided to swap Glasgow for Birmingham.

Villa have won just three league games this season and sit 16th, having sold talisman Jack Grealish to Manchester City for £100million.

Leon Bailey, Danny Ings and Emiliano Buendia were brought in to help replace Grealish, but fitness issues have meant the attacking trio have rarely featured together so far.

Villa nevertheless have a strong squad, and Gerrard will be hoping to push for Europe in his first venture into Premier League management.

"It has been very clear in our discussions with him that Steven's coaching ambitions, philosophy and values entirely match those of Aston Villa," Villa CEO Christian Purslow said.

Gerrard's first reunion with Liverpool will come on December 11, when Villa visit Anfield, while his first game in charge will be against Brighton and Hove Albion after the international break.

Former Rangers and Scotland manager Walter Smith has died at the age of 73.

Smith holds legendary status at Ibrox, having won 21 trophies during two spells as boss of the Scottish champions.

He also masterminded the Glasgow giants' run to the UEFA Cup final in 2008 and managed his country from 2004 to 2007.

Smith was also in charge at Everton for almost four years and spent time as Alex Ferguson's assistant at Manchester United.

Rangers chairman Douglas Park said in a statement on Tuesday: "On behalf of the Rangers board of directors, staff and players, I convey my deep condolences to the Smith family. Walter leaves behind a wife, children and grandchildren, all of whom are in our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.

"It is almost impossible to encapsulate what Walter meant to every one of us at Rangers. He embodied everything that a Ranger should be. His character and leadership was second to none, and will live long in the memory of everyone he worked with during his two terms as first team manager.

"I spoke with Walter as recently as last weekend. Even when he was battling illness, he was still able to provide advice and support. For that, I am personally grateful. I know that he continued also to maintain dialogue with senior members of staff, including our manager, Steven Gerrard.

"Walter will be sorely missed by all of us at Rangers.

"Winning 10 top-flight titles as manager, five Scottish Cups and six League Cups, as well as leading his club to the UEFA Cup final in 2008, he will be remembered by the football community across the world. His spells as Scotland manager as well as managing in the English Premier League underlined his credentials as one of the great modern day football managers.

"However, for Rangers supporters, he was much more than just a football manager. Walter was a friend to many, a leader, an ambassador and most of all -a legend."

Former Rangers manager Mark Warburton expressed his sorrow, writing on Twitter: "Devastating news to hear of the sad passing of Walter Smith. A man who was always on hand to help with advice and support. My thoughts and condolences are with his family at this most difficult time."

Dusan Vlahovic decision not to extend his Fiorentina contract is set to spark a bidding war.

Fiorentina had been hopeful of re-signing their star forward.

Now, Europe's elite are reportedly queuing up to sign the Serbia international.

 

TOP STORY – VLAHOVIC EYEING JUVE MOVE

Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic is dreaming of a move to Juventus, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

Vlahovic's future is a hot topic after Fiorentina announced the Serbia international will not re-sign in Florence.

Contracted to Fiorentina until 2023, Vlahovic has been tipped to make the move to Juve like former Viola team-mate Federico Chiesa, while Manchester City, Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, Inter and Arsenal have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport says City forward Raheem Sterling is open to a loan move to Barcelona in January. Sterling has found himself out of favour under Pep Guardiola in Manchester.

Manchester United are prioritising a new right-back in January to provide competition for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, reports 90min. Rangers' Nathan Patterson and Max Aarons of Norwich City have been linked.

- It is only a matter of weeks before Lautaro Martinez extends his Inter contract, per Fabrizio Romano. Inter are also set to open talks with midfielder Marcelo Brozovic.

- Roma have re-opened talks to sign Denis Zakaria from Borussia Monchengladbach, claims Gianluca Di Marzio. Zakaria is out of contract at the end of the season, though Roma are set to try to bring in the Gladbach star in January. 

- The Daily Mail claims Tottenham are eyeing Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger. The Germany international is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked with Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Juve, Real Madrid and Atletico.

Milan are monitoring Salzburg trio Luka Sucic, Brenden Aaronson and Maurtis Kjaergaard, according to Calciomercato.

Crystal Palace have completed the signing of Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard on a four-year deal.

Edouard joins for a reported £15million and becomes the Eagles' seventh arrival of this transfer window under Patrick Vieira.

The 23-year-old scored 86 goals in 179 appearances during his four-year stint at Celtic. His last game for the Scottish giants was Sunday's Old Firm derby, in which he missed a golden chance in a 1-0 defeat to rivals Rangers.

A former France youth international, he won three Scottish Premiership titles with the Hoops, as well as two Scottish Cups and two Scottish League Cups.

"I'm very happy to be here today," he told Palace's official club website.

"I can't [wait] to start to train with the team and to play for this club. 

"Scoring goals in the Premier League may be the biggest challenge in my career. 

"But I'm confident in myself and my team-mates to be successful."

Edouard arrives with Palace 14th in the Premier League having collected two points from their opening three games.

He could make his debut when the Eagles welcome to Tottenham to Selhurst Park on September 11.

Rangers overcame plenty of adversity to clinch a 1-0 victory over OId Firm rivals Celtic thanks to Filip Helander's brilliant header.

Hit by a raft of COVID-19 cases, with manager Steven Gerrard among those isolating, Scottish champions Rangers still had the better of Sunday's derby and found a deserved breakthrough in the 66th minute.

Helander met Borna Barisic's corner with a thumping header to score his first Old Firm derby goal, sending a vociferous, albeit wholly one-sided due to coronavirus restrictions, Ibrox crowd into ecstasy. 

Ryan Kent had previously hit the post for Rangers, with Helander's header punishing the profligacy of Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard, who missed a golden chance midway through the first half as the Hoops' winless run against their Glasgow rivals in the league was extended to seven matches.

An enthralling, end-to-end start should have culminated in Celtic taking the lead in the 25th minute, yet Edouard – hunting his eighth league goal against Rangers – somehow skewed wide of a gaping goal from five yards out.

Kent did much better at the other end seven minutes later, beating Joe Hart with a sublime curling effort, but the upright came to Celtic's rescue.

Playmaker Kent tried another curler on the stroke of the hour, only to send his strike straight at Hart for a comfortable save.

Rangers' pressure finally told after the hour, however – Helander rising to meet Barisic's inswinging delivery, with Hart unable to keep out the centre-back's towering header.

Helander almost went from hero to pantomime villain straight from the restart when his slip enabled Kyogo Furuhashi to steal in, but on his league debut for Rangers, stand-in goalkeeper Robby McCrorie made a fantastic save to spare his team-mate's blushes and seal victory.

What does it mean? A big, big win for Gerrard

Rangers cruised to the title as Celtic capitulated last season, but the Hoops look a different proposition under Ange Postecoglou, though he has now become the first manager to lose his first league Old Firm derby match in charge of Celtic since Tony Mowbray in October 2009.

Gerrard will have been kicking every ball from home during the contest, no doubt, and given the adversity Rangers have faced this week, not to mention a gruelling trip back from Armenia, it feels like a statement win from the champions.

McCrorie's nerves of steel

If you are going to make your Premiership debut for Rangers, you might as well do it in the biggest game of all.

Having made his Rangers bow in the Europa League on Thursday, 23-year-old McCrorie came up with two terrific saves in the second half, twice denying the lively Furuhashi.

Edouard found wanting

Only against Motherwell (10) and Hamilton Academical (eight) has Edouard netted more league goals than against Rangers, while the Frenchman – who has been linked with a move away from Celtic before Tuesday's transfer deadline – had scored (seven) or assisted (three) 10 of the Hoops' last 14 strikes against their rivals in the top flight.

However, he fluffed his lines in some style on Sunday, missing from point-blank range and a frustrating day for the forward came to an end shortly after Rangers had taken the lead. His miss was his only shot, while he managed just 19 touches in total. If he is to leave Celtic, it would not have been how he wanted to bow out.

What's next?

Celtic host Ross County after the international break, while Rangers face St Johnstone. Both of those games take place on September 11.

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