All three of the Celtic new signings from Japan — Reo Hatate, Daizen Maeda and Yosuke Ideguchi—made their respective debuts for the club during Monday’s 2-0 home win over Hibs.
The Full Scottish with Brian P. Dunleavy
And, while Maeda scored his first goal in Hoops early in the match, it was Hatate, or “Reo” as it says on the back of his shirt, that turned heads. He was quite simply dominant in the middle of the park against a Hibs side seemingly finding its feet under new manager (and former Celt) Shaun Maloney. He was controlled in possession and, man, could he pick a pass.
Japan may not be a typical hunting ground for players in Scotland’s top flight—Celtic’s Shunsuke Nakamura is the best-known import from the country to ply his trade in the Prem—but that may change. Hoops manager Ange Postecoglou clearly has a connection with the island nation, having managed there prior to coming to Glasgow, and (based on early results at least) he has been spot on in recruitment.
Yes, we’re gushing based on one match—in which Hatate and Maeda played less that 75 minutes. However, both made an impression, and Hatate, in particular, was exceptional.
The latest influx of talent from the J-League is yet another feather in Postecoglou’s cap. After a rough start in Glasgow, which included elimination from the Champions’ League and then “relegation” to the Conference League from the Europa League, he seems to have stabilized his position and put his stamp on the squad.
With more of “his” players in, he can credibly argue that he has the side playing the “kind of football” (a favorite expression of his) he wants. That will certainly be enough to fend off any potential challenge from Hearts for second in the table.
Whether it will be enough to close in on Rangers, though remains to be seen. ’Gers have hardly set the world on fire since Giovanni van Bronckhorst took over for the departed Steven Gerrard, but they are still title-holders and still sit at the top of the table. Postecoglou’s Celtic needs to get a result in the next, er, battle between the two sides, if for no other reason than prove they have the mettle—and talent—to do so.
To get that result, they will need Hatate and Maeda to build on their positive first impressions.