CELTIC legend Davie Hay had no hesitation in July last year when CQN asked him to reveal the player he thought had been the pick of Ange Postecoglou’s recruits.
The club’s former player and manager didn’t pause as he fired back: “Kyogo Furuhashi.”
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, we put the same question to the club ambassador considering Postecoglou brought in another raft of players in two more transfer windows.
Hay delivered his forthright view to Celtic book author Alex Gordon, who co-wrote the club ambassador’s best-selling autobiography, ‘The Quiet Assassin‘, which was published in 2009.
CHEERLEADER…Kyogo Furuhashi shows the way to Matt O’Riley and Oh Hyeon-gyu in the celebrations with the Celtic fans following the League Cup victory at Hampden on February 26.
The club great said: “I can’t think of a single reason why it still wouldn’t be Kyogo. If anything, he has enhanced his reputation in my estimation.
“We all know about one-season wonders. They are players who are unknown to the opposition when they are first introduced to our game.
“They are an unknown quantity when they first make an appearance. No-one really knows what to expect, we’re not sure of their strengths or weaknesses.
“Kyogo arrived with a reputation for being pacy and being able to pinch a goal. Okay, he could do it in the J-League, but could he produce in the Premiership?
HAMPDEN HOORAYS…Kyogo Furuhashi is congratulated by Greg Taylor after scoring the first of his League Cup Final double.
“I think it would be fair to say that most folk would not realise the quality of Japan’s top flight.
“I liked Kyogo the moment I first clapped eyes on him. Forget the cameo apparance near the end of the Hearts game the previous weekend, he made his first start away from home against FK Jablonec in the Czech Republic and, even before the kick-off, that told me the manager had a lot of faith in his recruit.
“Big Jock Stein would usually prefer to give a new player their debut at Parkhead in an environment they would already be comfortable with and the backing of the home fans behind them.
“Big Ange, though, was pitching Kyogo into the fray in an away tie in Europe and, remember, the manager was still looking for his first win since his June arrival.
“Kyogo delivered big-style. Apart from scoring a superb early goal, he really put himself about and was out on his feet by the time Odsonne Edouard took over after the hour mark.
“Considering the fact he only arrived in Scotland in the early hours before the league opener at Tynecastle, it was a fairly remarkable performance from the Japanese ace.
“And he made an instant impression with the Celtic fans, the most knowledgeable in the game, in my humble estimation, when he made his first appearance at Parkhead and fired in a hat-trick in a 6-0 win over Dundee.
“He completed the season with 20 goals and if he hadn’t been out injured for a total of four months you can only take a guess at what he would have ended up with.”
NEW SEASON, SAME OLD STORY…Kyogo Furuhashi gives Celtic an early lead in the 5-0 win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in the third Premiership outing of 2022/23.
Hay added: “So, every defender in the land knew what to expect when Kyogo turned up for his second season.
“And they still haven’t been able to do anything about him. He has now scored 24 times and he is bound to crash the 30-goal barrier unless something unexpected occurs to derail his progress.
“I can see why Ange was so insistent on buying the player. Apparently, Kyogo was the one he really wanted as he revitalised the squad back in the summer of 2021.
“How much did he cost from Vissel Kobe? He’s the best £4.6million Celtic have ever spent.
“Put it this way. Who would you prefer leading the Celtic attack, Kyogo or Albian Ajeti? And the Swiss player cost £400,000 more when he joined from West Ham a year earlier.
“No disrespect to Ajeti, but he doesn’t look a good fit at Celtic and no-one was surprised he was loaned out for a season to Sturm Graz.
“He scored nine goals in two years at Parkhead and I see he is not piling them up in Austria, so he will be on his way back to Glasgow in June.
“Kyogo and Ajeti simply contrast the fortunes of individuals at certain clubs.
“For me, Kyogo has been worth every penny of the transfer fee Celtic paid for him.
“Ange Postecoglou has got so many things right since arriving at the club. Bringing Kyogo Furuhashi with him from the Far East is right up there with the best of his achievements.”
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss another big EXCLUSIVE from Davie Hay – only in your champion CQN.
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v Hearts this evening – only in your champion CQN.