CELTIC legend John ‘Yogi’ Hughes reckons Celtic fans are still waiting to see the real Daizen Maeda.
The Hoops striking icon, seventh-highest goalscorer in the club’s history with 189 goals, believes Ange Postecoglou’s team WILL win the Premiership this season, as reported in CQN yesterday.
Hughes watched from the Lisbon Lions stand on Wednesday evening as his old club won 2-0 to maintain a three-point advantage in the pursuit of their tenth title in 11 years.
Postecoglou’s men now face the dodgy trip to West Lothian on Sunday for the encounter against Livingston, a club against whom they have failed to score in two previous games in this campaign – the 1-0 loss on the plastic pitch in September and 0-0 at Parkhead the following month.
With nine crucial games to go in the race for the flag, it’s time for the Hoops players to stand up and be counted.
YOGI ON THE RAMPAGE…John Hughes puts the pressure on the Rangers rearguard in a 2-0 win at Parkhead in the sixties. Davie Smith gets a close-up view.
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, the Parkhead great, speaking to author Alex Gordon, who co-wrote the fans’ favourite’s autobiography, ‘Yogi Bare: Life and Times of a Celtic Legend’, admitted: “I have to confess Daizen Maeda is a bit of an enigma to me. He arrived in Hogmanay with his fellow-countrymen Reo Hatate and Yosuke Ideguchi and great things were predicted.
“The frontman had completed the J-League as joint top marksman with 23 goals and I had seen clips of him in action which appeared to show his scorching pace.
“I haven’t seen that side of his game yet. Don’t get me wrong, the lad puts in a helluva shift and works for the 90 minutes-plus – or when he’s on the pitch – in every game I have watched.
“But I have yet to see him leave any Scottish defender for dead with his turn of pace. He’s quick, but he’s not in Bobby Lennox’s class.
“My wee team-mate used to train on the beach at Saltcoats – have you ever tried to run on sand? – and by the time matchday arrived on a level playing surface, Bobby was raring to go, nothing or nobody could hold him back.
“So, it is maybe unfair to hold up Bobby as a comparison because few came anywhere near his ability to get off his mark and keep on running. I have no idea how many goals he scored that were disallowed because he had sprinted so swiftly into isolated areas.
HIGH HOPES. ..Daizen Maeda scores Celtic’s fourth goal in the 4-0 romp against Motherwell at Fir Park last month. James Forrest watches as the ball loops off lunging defender Bevis Mugabi and over the head of the stranded Liam Kelly.
BUZZBOMB…the unstoppable Bobby Lennox gets into his stride.
“Too many referees back then were way too quick to blow their whistle and linesmen equally fast in raising their flag when Wee Bobby took off. I’ve seen a few of those so-called offside goals on old film where you can pause the tape. Wee Bobby must have been robbed of about 100 goals!
“I watched Maeda closely from the Lisbon Lions stand in midweek and, as I say, there is no way you can fault the lad’s effort and endeavour. He was chasing lost causes on a lot of occasions, but he was still determined to put pressure on the keeper and his defenders.
“But is he an out-and-out striker? On the early evidence, I would say no. Just like the Japan international, my two main positions were through the middle and playing wide on the flank, normally the left.
“Those two positions are worlds apart, believe me. If you are the attack leader – or old-fashioned centre-forward, if you prefer – you have to copy in all sorts of requirements.
“In most cases, you are expected to score goals, but there are other aspects of that role. You need to know when to hold the ball and allow team-mates to get up the park to join in. You have to be an important link in that process.
“There is little benefit in continually charging goalwards on solo runs every time the ball drops at your feet. Yes, every now and again these sorties do pay off with a spectacular goal, but, in truth, they are few and far between unless you are blessed with the qualities of a Pele or a Maradona.
“Maeda might have scored a couple of goals in the recent encounter against Dundee. In between Giorgos Giakoumakis’ first and second goals, he stabbed at a ball across the face of goal and was just too slow to turn it in from close range.
SEARCHING FOR A GOAL…Daizen Maeda in action against St Mirren in midweek.
“At the start of the second-half – when a third goal would have been most welcome – he was again just off the pace at the back post when a cross clipped up off the surface. A natural goalscorer in that position would have anticipated that action.
“Against the Paisley side in midweek, he was off target with a variety of headers and wasn’t quick enough to react to an inviting low ball from Filipe Jota in the first-half. It just needed a touch, but he missed it completely and it ran to a surprised Liel Abada who at least got a snap shot on goal which was pushed away by Jak Alnwick.”
Hughes, now 78, added: “I get the impression Maeda’s game is more suited to coming in from the left. You get an entirely different view of your target from this angle.
“It’s easier to play quick one-twos on the wing and open up opportunities than it is in the middle of a congested area in front of goal.
“In an ideal world, you would have Kyogo Furuhashi as your main man with Maeda, who has claimed four strikes since coming in, as back-up on the wing.
“Of course, you have to factor in the qualities of Jota and what he brings to the team from this area plus the ability of Abada on the right.
“I hope Celtic make the Portuguese winger’s loan deal permanent in the summer and £6.5million is a bargain on the evidence of what we have seen so far.
“You can also look to Giakoumakis as someone to lead the frontline and the Greek is now working his way towards looking the part after his August arrival.
“To be honest, he didn’t impress me on his early performances, but it does appear he was being held back by a knee condition. He claimed a striker’s hat-trick – one with the right foot, one with the left and one with the head – against the Dens Park side to take his goal tally to seven although he hasn’t played too many games.
SITTING DOWN ON THE JOB…nine-goal Albian Ajeti.
“That’s just two short of what Albian Ajeti has delivered since his £5million arrival from West Ham in the summer of 2020. It’s hard to believe he has yet to get into double figures.
“Abada, with 14, and Jota, with 10, have already scored more goals than the Swiss international whose contribution has been negligible, to say the least. He just hasn’t fitted in at Parkhead and it was unfortunate he was injured early in the Europa League Group match against Real Betis in December.
“A few goals around that time could have attracted attention from would-be suitors in the January transfer window and he might have got the transfer that would have suited the player and the club.
“Ajeti is still there and was on the substitutes’ bench against St Mirren, but I wouldn’t like to rely on him to get the goals that can make the difference between being champions and also-rans.
“So, it’s all eyes on Livingston on Sunday and there is no doubt they are a dangerous team – they coasted to a 4-0 win at Dundee just a week after we left it late to get a 3-2 victory over the same opponents in Glasgow – but these are the challenges that must be met and overcome.
“A lot has been made of their horrible plastic pitch and it is undoubtedly an advantage to the home team to know the quirks of such a surface. The Celtic players can train on artificial pitches all week at Lennoxtown, but those surfaces will not play the same as the one in West Lothian.
“It’s just a pity Wee Bobby Lennox isn’t around. My former team-mate could have performed on quicksand!”
*TOMORROW: DON’T MISS ANOTHER BIG YOGI EXCLUSIVE.