Ange Postecoglou: Beliefs and approach of an elite manager

Ange Postecoglou says his core beliefs were formed during his childhood in South Melbourne

Ange Postecoglou says his core beliefs were formed during his childhood in South Melbourne

AFTER Tottenham's 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday, Ange Postecoglou was asked about his side's use of inverted full-backs.

"I just copied Pep, mate," the Australian joked.

The previous week, Gary Neville had suggested Postecoglou was aping tactics that only Pep Guardiola and Manchester City could truly master. These comments will have particularly irked the 58-year-old, because he's been talking about "freeing players of positional constraints" for many years.

He's also been eager to emphasise that he isn't a coach "who just follow trends." In fact he wants to "coach the future", although his core beliefs were forged while growing up in the suburbs of South Melbourne in the 1970s.

All of this came out in an interview with Ed Sulley for Hudl's High Performance Workflows series in April 2020. This is the most revealing portrait of the manager you'll find, uncovering the Australian's beliefs, background and philosophy.

Postecoglou may have been the manager of Yokohama Marinos at the time, but the messages will resonate for the many Tottenham fans who have already taken him to their hearts. You can read an edited transcript of the interview below, as well as watch the full webinar,


Ange Postecoglou: My dad, he worked very hard. Before I’d get up for breakfast he would already be at work. At nights, he’d get in, get through dinner quickly, sit on the couch and fall asleep.

For a young boy, I was looking for a connection with my father and the weekend was the time. We’d go to our local club, South Melbourne, which was a club formed by immigrants of a similar background from Greece, and that Sunday at the football became something special to me.

My father, who I knew as a certain kind of individual during the week - and to be fair he wasn’t fun to be around, because he was always tired and working hard - just came to life. He would walk through those gates, socialise with everyone, get really animated about the referee and coach and football, and I wouldn’t leave his side.

That Sunday was really precious to me. I also have stark and vivid memories of being woken in the middle of the night and knowing there was a game of football on the tele that he wanted me to watch with him. It felt like we were the only two people up in the whole world and watching a game from the other side of the world.

For me, that was precious, because it just brought me closer to my dad. He really loved watching the entertainers. It started in the early 1970s. He loved Leeds, people like Eddie Gray and Peter Lorimer. And in 1974, the first World Cup I remember, he kept talking about Johan Cruyff and the Dutch.

In the early to mid 1970s I started following Liverpool, because the football they were playing used to excite my father as well. They were a possession-based team. He influenced the kind of football I liked and that has stuck with me. I really struggled in my playing career because I couldn't be the player who would excite my father. I was a defender and fairly limited in my technical ability.

My father passed away a couple of years ago and when my teams play I still pretend my father is watching in the grandstand and would he be enjoying watching this team? That has always been the root of everything I have done.

I can’t shift, because where it all started from is more powerful than any challenges I’ll get externally, from owners or media or supporters questioning my beliefs. They are so deep-rooted they can never change.


Your philosophy has got to come from something within you. It’s got to reflect who you are as a person. There is not one philosophy that defines success. You’re not going to tell me you’re going to shift Diego Simeone from what he believes, or Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola.

Their beliefs start from something more than just something they’ve seen or learnt - it’s something within them. So the first thing is understanding who you are as a person, and understanding the coach you want to be. Then you’ll find the philosophy and system that suits you.

Because the one thing you know is when you come into a dressing room and are talking to a group of people, they are pretty good at seeing who’s genuine and who’s mimicking someone else.

They will test you and your beliefs. If what you’re saying isn’t coming from deep inside you, then you’re going to get tripped up. In fact you’re going to end up second guessing yourself.

If you say, ‘I want to play like Pep Guardiola’ but your inner soul is Diego Simeone, then at some point there’s going to be a disconnect, because when you’re inevitably under pressure you will fall back to who you are.

I was lucky, because my philosophy came from when I was five-years-old and holding my dad’s hand and we were walking into the football and I was looking up at the most powerful person in my life. That will never be shifted, to the day I finish coaching. That can’t be shifted.


If you dig into the most successful coaches, it's more than just winning. Most people want to be part of something that’s more powerful than saying, 'We want to win this weekend.' Every team in the world wants to win. That’s not what sets you apart, that’s not what’s going to get your players and staff motivated to come into work the next day.

That never-ending cycle of just wanting to win will wear you out. You need to make them believe they are part of something special, something more powerful than just winning.

For us, our utopia is playing the kind of football that means our supporters don’t sit down for 90 minutes. When you’re striving for something like that, I think it gets people motivated to work and look forward to that buzz that’s more important than winning.

Because sometimes you can win and not really know why you’ve won. Everywhere I’ve coached I’ve tried for us to be on the front foot. We have to respect what the opposition bring, but we’re not going to let them move us from what we want to do.


I’d like to think I’m pretty clear in how I want us to train and play.

There are core beliefs that have been there from day one of my coaching career. Certain things are non-negotiables and the first one is I want my teams to have the ball. But it’s not just about possession, because if we keep the ball with no real purpose we won’t be successful or exciting.

Ultimately, it’s about goals scored, that excites me more than anything else. Every season I want my team to score more goals than anybody else. We need to have the ball to be able to play the football I want and score the goals, so everything is geared around that. Winning 4-3 is more exciting than winning 1-0. The more goals we score the happier I am about the football we’re playing.

I need to be able to get everyone to believe in this. If we are going to have the ball, we don’t want to put it in a position where it’s a 50-50 contest. Most of the time it starts from how can we play out from the back. It’s not about going forward for no reason, it’s about looking for space and creating space so you can go forward with purpose. We are constantly looking for angles and spaces and getting into an area where we can attack the opposition.

We want to be able to constantly do that, even under extreme pressure.

And our defensive work doesn’t stray from our core belief - we are a team that want to have the ball. I don’t think there’s any player that really enjoys chasing the ball for too long. As kids, we all enjoy having the ball at our feet.

As a coach, when I’m watching the game, I’m just not comfortable when the opposition have the ball. Our whole defensive set-up is, 'Let’s get the ball back off them as quickly as possible.'

A lot of that is immediate pressure after we’ve lost the ball, pressure high up the pitch away from the goal. If we win it there, there’s a massive reward. That also minimises opportunities they have to hurt us with the ball.

We sometimes concede more goals than you would look at with a normal champion. If we are 2-0 up we are trying to score a third, fourth or fifth. We’re not that concerned about keeping a clean sheet.

It takes a certain type of personality to embrace this. if you’re not bold in your approach or willing to be brave, you’re not going to fit in with the programme I’ve set up. If they are conservative in their nature or set in their ways it’s going to be very hard to persuade them to play this way.

We want to be an aggressive, brave, attacking football team and everything we do as a football club bonds into it. To play our kind of football you need to be working hard and playing at a certain tempo and speed, so we prepare our players to play at this tempo all the time.

For me, it was important we play a certain way, but it has also been very successful for me.


Coaching today is not about telling people what to do. If you really want to be successful you have to make people believe, so that they make the decision themselves.

I don’t micromanage. I’m not standing over staff watching what they do. I want the players and coaches to decide to work and play this way. It’s very easy to tell people what to do and for the most part they will do it. But if you can get somebody to believe in something and decide to do it that way it’s really powerful.

Experienced players tend to know the pitfalls of football and life, so to convince them to do something risky can take more time. Young players tend to be sponges and don’t know the pitfalls, so I’ve always liked to have a youth emphasis.

I get excited by developing young players and don’t think they’re detrimental to being successful.

We tend to focus on the players, but I feel that developing staff around me is just as important. I have always worked with different staff, I’m not the person who takes staff with me. That’s my challenge - if I’m going to have longevity in this game I have to make sure my message is always relevant.

By bringing in new people, it forces me as to make that message relevant to the new person coming in the door. I have always gone for smart young guys and I take pride in seeing these guys develop.

It’s a brave decision to bring in someone you have never worked with before when you’re already successful. I don’t want to make the safe or known decision. If I already know the answer to a question it doesn’t really excite me.

Bringing in people I am potentially going to be challenged by is great for me.


I am always coaching in the future. I am building teams for five years' time, I want to do what no-one is doing at the moment. The game is constantly evolving.

People tend to follow trends. My philosophy is I’d rather go into something beyond that. If Liverpool are dominating with that unbelievable tempo at the moment, then how is that going to be overcome?

In the same way that people looked at Pep’s Barcelona and asked, 'How are we going to stop this juggernaut?' and came up with this unbelievable counter-pressing.

That’s the beauty of the game. My utopia is still going back to 1974 and that total football. The more I can free players of positional constraints, the happier I get but the crazier it gets. Can I get players not thinking like they’re defenders or midfielders or attackers and can we get our game even more fluid?

Because a player is not going to say, ‘I’m a centre back, I have to be in this area,’ they’re going to see there’s space and go there and someone else will fill that role.

I think that’s where the game will go at some point.I’ve never rewatched my success. I am looking ahead to what we can do better.

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