In the period leading up to Australia joining the Asian Football Confederation in 2006 (AFC) there were debates as to what exactly Asia would get out of the deal.
Sceptics struggled to see past the Socceroos stealing one of the continent’s precious and limited World Cup spots and were unconvinced when others talked of an injection of new levels of competition, professionalism, sports science and more besides.
If an Australian coach can be the first one from the AFC to land a big European job and be successful, then, even if it is not a game-changer for Asian football, it could be a huge push forward.
We have seen players head west in growing numbers (even if they come from a limited number of nations). There was a time, not long ago, when the arrival of a Japanese or South Korean player was greeted with automatic assertions of shirt-selling and commercial reasoning behind the move.
The likes of Son Heung-min have demonstrated that there is genuine talent in Asia and we have also seen old prejudices disappear, or at least, weaken. There has not yet been a coaching equivalent. Ange Postecoglou could be the necessary catalyst that Asia needs and we can see why it is needed.
Some of the reaction to the news that Postecoglou is in line to become the next manager of Celtic has shown that Asian coaches have a long way to go to win respect in the international arena. Here is a man who has led Australia to two World Cups, won one continental championship and domestic leagues in Australia and Japan. Yet all that counts for little.
What also counts against his resume is the absence of a European section. If he is as good as many in Asia say then surely he would have been heading west years earlier? This misses the point however that Asian coaches just don’t go to Europe’s big leagues. It is not just Asia --if you are outside Europe or South America then it is hugely difficult for a coach to get a chance, especially if you were not well-known as a player either. It is easier and safer for club owners and CEOs to appoint a German, Spaniard or a Brazilian than anyone from Asia. It is just less hassle.
These attitudes to Asian football is something that Postecoglou can help to change and if he can do so then he will be doing his continental coaching counterparts a massive service. Someone has to be the first, there has to be a coach from Asia who gets a big gig in Europe, one who takes all the criticism and can rise above the ignorance and deliver on the pitch.
And if there is to be a pioneer then it should be the best. If the former Brisbane boss can make a difference in Glasgow then it will be easier for others to follow. Of course, the opposite holds true. If the coach who is seen as the best in Asia fails for whatever reason then future tacticians will find it a difficult challenge that bit harder but Postecoglou has rarely failed.
The reaction to his potential appointment shows the scale of the task for any coach coming in from Asia. Should it happen then Postecoglou is going to have plenty to do in taking Celtic back to the top of Scottish football and making inroads into Europe. Doing Asian coaches a favour will not be top of his to-do list but it could end up being a major and lasting contribution to football in the world’s biggest continent.