CELTIC legend John Hughes, the club’s seventh-highest scorer with 189 goals, insists Giorgos Giakoumakis can be a revelation at the Hoops.
The Greek striker, who arrived in a £2.5million switch from Dutch outfit VVV-Venlo in August, had a slow start to his career at Parkhead and many were ready to write off the 27-year-old hitman.
Giakoumakis didn’t help his cause when he fluffed a penalty-kick in stoppage time of the scoreless stalemate with Livingston in Glasgow in October.
He opened his scoring account against St Johnstone in the same month and has added two more – in the 2-1 Scottish Cup win over Alloa and the 2-1 Premiership victory over Hearts at Tynecastle – and the Hoops icon, affectionately known as ‘Yogi’ by his adoring fans in his playing days, reckons he will be a major player in Ange Postecoglou’s plans this season.
YOGI ON THE RAMPAGE…John Hughes races away from grounded Rangers duo Ronnie McKinnon and Colin Jackson in his hey day.
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, Hughes, speaking to Celtic book author Alex Gordon, said: “I admit I was not too sure about Giorgos when he first arrived.
“To be honest, I thought he was cumbersome and his first touch needed a bit of work.
“However, the record books showed he had scored 26 goals with a team that had been relegated from the Eredivisie, so that told you something about his qualities.
“Ange Postecoglou’s record in the transfer market would suggest he can spot a player, but I wondered if the forward could fit into his plans.
“Look at Kyogo Furuhashi, for instance. He hit the ground running and made an instant impact. Giorgos came in and left more than a few unconvinced about his ability, me included.
“What we didn’t realise was that he was suffering from a knee complaint that certainly slowed his progress.
“I think we are now seeing the real deal. I thought he was excellent in the 3-0 win over Rangers. He really put himself about and unsettled Connor Goldson and Calvin Bassey in the middle of their rearguard.
“He forced Allan McGregor into three superb first-half saves and generally made a nuisance of himself.”
GREEK SALUTE…Giorgos Giakoumakis celebrates his goal in the 2-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle.
Big Yogi, now 78, added: “I believe he displayed genuine game awareness in that match and followed up with a sound performance against Motherwell at Fir Park.
“A lot of his running probably went unnoticed, but he was spreading the Well back lot across the pitch. It was another unselfish performance and he was prepared to stand up and be counted when he faced their big centre-back Bevis Mugabi.
“A lot of player may have been intimidated, but not Giorgos. He got in about him when he was on the pitch and you could see the Motherwell man was uncomfortable.
“He had a role to play, too, when he came on as a second-half substitute against Aberdeen at Pittodrie in midweek.
“Ange could not risk the Dons getting a third goal and, as we have seen, our manager likes to defend on the front foot,
“Daizen Maeda had put in a good shift, but it was time for fresh legs and the Greek provided that.
“He looks to me as being a key member of the squad in the weeks and months to come.
“Giorgos may not score the goals Kyogo can claim – or even Liel Abada or Filipe Jota – but he will play his part in what could be a memorable year for Celtic.
“I’m backing him to deliver the goods and prove to be an absolute bargain at £2.5million.”