CELTIC’S marathon men appear to be running out of steam as the season reaches its crescendo.
The Hoops’ four recruits from Japan – Kyogo Furuhashi, Reo Hatate, Daizen Maeda and Yosuke Ideguchi – have been playing virtually non-stop since the J-League kicked off on February 26 last year.
To put that in perspective, that was only five days after the Hoops lost to Ross County 1-0 in Dingwall and just 48 hours before Neil Lennon departed Parkhead.
Kyogo was first to arrive following his £4.6million switch from Vissel Kobe on July 30 – one day before the Premiership kicked off and he made an 11-minute appearance as Ange Postecoglou suffered a 2-1 loss to Hearts at Tynecastle on his league baptism.
DOUBLE VISION…Reo Hatate and Daizen Maeda celebrate the 3-0 derby victory at Parkhead in February.
Hatate, Maeda and Ideguchi joined on Hogmanay, only 27 days after their national top flight came to a conclusion.
All three were involved when the Premiership restarted on January 17 in Glasgow where Maeda, the J-League’s joint top scorer with 23 strikes, opened his account in the opening minutes of the 2-0 win over Hibs in which midfielder Hatate lifted the Man of the Match award.
Anchorman Ideguchi made his first appearance midway through the second-half on a wholly satisfying evening for the Hoops who cut their Ibrox rival’s lead to three points.
It has been whirlwind stuff for the new Bhoys, but Maeda is the only one who has lasted a full game in the last four outings.
Kyogo has started two and come on as a second-half substitute in the others while Hatate has been in the line-ups at kick-off and been replaced on all four occasions.
WAITING IN THE WINGS…Yosuke Ideguchi is hoping to make a big impact at Celtic.
Ideguchi, who was crocked on his first start following an awful over-the-ball challenge in the 2-1 Scottish Cup win at Alloa five days after his debut, hasn’t kicked a ball over the same period and didn’t make the substitutes’ bench for a couple of the confrontations.
It is understandable the four signings are showing signs of wear and tear. Kyogo, of course, has seen the second half of the campaign just about obliterated because of a persistent hamstring problem.
After scoring his 16th goal on December 19 – the second and winning strike in the Premier Sports League Cup Final against Hibs – he had to wait until his first start of 2022 before he added to his tally with a 12th-minute header in the 2-0 victory over Ross County in Dingwall on April 24.
The club’s talisman started in the 1-1 stalemate with Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s Ibrox visitors at the weekend, but made way in the 61st minute for Giorgos Giakoumakis.
Hatate went off at the same time with Nir Bitton taking his anchorman role. Maeda was replaced by Liel Abada 12 minutes later.
GOOD TO BE BACK…Kyogo Furuhashi salutes the Celtic fans in Dingwall last month.
The previous week against Malky Mackay’s Highlanders, the same three players were removed in the second-half. Kyogo and Maeda went off in the 64th minute with Giakoumakis and Abada taking their places.
Hatate was substituted in the 74th minute with David Turnbull coming on for a rare outing in the second half of the season.
Maeda played the full match in the 7-0 win over St Johnstone at Parkhead on April 9 when Kyogo, after missing 17 consecutive games, came on for his first appearance of the year.
The pacy Maeda was replaced by James Forrest at the start of extra-time in the Scottish Cup semi-final loss the following weekend.
Boss Postecoglou has worked wonders getting every ounce of effort and endeavour from his Japanese Bhoys and has handled their appearances with a great degree of skill. The problem now is how much game time they will be allowed with the campaign nearing the end.
SILVERWARE TRIO…Ange Postecoglou is flanked by two-goal Kyogo Furuhashi and captain Callum McGregor after the 2-1 Premier Sports League Cup Final win in December.
The curtain will come down in Paradise a week on Saturday when Motherwell visit and that will be the Greek-Australian’s sixtieth match in charge over an exhausting term that kicked off with the 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Champions League qualifier against FC Midtjylland in Glasgow on July 20.
Kyogo, Hatate, Maeda and Ideguchi were all playing for their club teams in the J-League back then.
The burn-out factor must come into play, but the manager will undoubtedly display his usual intelligent handling of the situation as Hearts arrive at Parkhead on Saturday for the encounter that affords the Hoops the opportunity to open a nine-point gap with their nearest challengers not playing until the following day when they take on Dundee United in Govan.
And then the focus will switch to Tannadice for the midweek encounter against the Tayside outfit with the Fir Park men providing the competition on what will hopefully be Flag Day in Paradise.
Then we can all take a breather. Some undoubtedly deserve it more than most.
Celtic fans are in for a treat when Kyogo, Hatate, Maeda and Ideguchi turn up for the new campaign fit and refreshed following a proper summer break.