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  • Writer's pictureMatt Olsen

Ange delivers silverware as Scottish football braces for influential title race

"Beat Hibs in the final oh what a scene, sure Hampden was covered in Banners of Green", reads the 1953 Coronation Cup hymn sung by the Celtic faithful.

Various British sides participated in the tournament to celebrate the crowning of a new British monarch, who was, of course, Queen Elizabeth II.

It doesn't take long to realise that both sides have anti-monarch sympathies, and Sunday's final was a celebration of great irony.

Fast forward some 68 years to December of 2021, with similar songs sung about the friendship between these two great clubs, and they formed a new celebration.

Celtic won the Scottish League Cup Final 2-1, the Bhoys celebrating an Australian manager and a Japanese forward, who claimed the plaudits above all else on the night.

Ange Postecoglou has become the first Australian to win silverware on Scottish soil. (Sky Sports)

Kyogo Furuhashi's performance is just a hint of the broader feel around the grounds in Glasgow.

Years of stigma and hurt at the supposed inferiority of the Asian game is one step closer to being eradicated by admiring Scottish audiences.

The game was fought in a dominant style, with the beloved Angeball facing a resilient and sturdy Hibs blockade that finally cracked in the second half.

Paul Hanlon gave Hibs the lead with an innocuous header in the 50th minute.

So much was the nonchalant nature of the finish that the ball bounced up and finished in Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart's hands.

Before you had time to process what had happened, Japanese star Furuhashi replied within a minute.

By the 72nd, he had won Celtic the League Cup.

Kyogo's dink from outside the box secured the League Cup title for Celtic. (SNS Group)

An AFC player delivering the goods was a slice of humble pie after years of Scottish audiences virtually delegitimised the Asian game, which highlights why this fight means so much.

It's not just Australians with skin in the game; an entire continent gains from this team and its achievements.

Not to forget that on the same note, it was only in January 2019 that the Scottish football establishment had scolded Tom Rogic.

On that occasion, it was for leaving for the Asian Cup and missing the Old Firm.

For now, those who serve the game and its fans are in awe of an Australian manager and two AFC based players winning a trophy on Scottish soil.

Thus this trophy has confirmed a silencing of the distinct hullabaloo once proudly displayed.

However, it is plain to see now that the tide is proudly changing, with Celtic captain Callum McGregor full of praise.

"I want to say a massive thanks to the backroom staff and the manager, everyone who has helped with this transition, and I hope it's the first of many for this group," he said in the aftermath of Sunday's success.

Reporters asked former Premier League star Hart about Ange's potential for more success minutes later.

"We have to keep playing our football, and this league is tough. Any chance we get, we'll get as high as we can," he said, referring directly to the title fight with rivals Rangers.

Regarding that same fight, this turn of events now confirms that the SPFL, seeing just four points between Celtic and Rangers, is reaching fever pitch.

Ange's men aren't just up for the fight, but they're also here to turn heads, and they have the proven chemistry to win, both ugly and convincingly, when called upon to do so.

It's what may be required on the biggest stage when the two meet again in the new year.

Rangers have come into the season believing their time in charge has come.

Scottish fans' continued stereotypes about the Asian game were at the ready, but we now know from this result that they were proven wrong.

If anyone should be best prepared and ready, it is Rangers themselves.

The honest story is that whilst it may still be somewhat of an uphill battle, the threat formed by Ange and his playing group certainly has Rangers alarmed.

In a similar fashion to the words spoken by Hart, they know the fight is a long and strenuous battle; it is a marathon and not a sprint.

The optimist in Australian fans may see this win as somewhat of a tipping point, which is what the hype boils down to because the results are proven.

This battle retains its heavyweight status and an even playing field.

The more significant fight remains despite what we say about Ange's success and prestige concerning Australian football.

Ahead of the coming month and a tide-turning Old Firm ahead of us, let it be known that the cultural fight for the Asian and Australian games may see more influential days yet.


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