CELTIC fans will see the best of Giorgos Giakoumakis.
That is the firm belief of manager Ange Postecoglou who spent £2.5million to prise the Greek striker from relegated VVV-Venlo after he completed last season top scorer in the Eredivisie with 26 goals.
Despite a false start – and a squandered stoppage-time penalty-kick in the scoreless stalemate with Livingston at Parkhead in October – the Hoops boss never lost faith in the 26-year-old hitman.
Postecoglou was aware the player had been dumped by AEK Athens in 2020 after just one goal in 30 appearances before making his way to the Netherlands, but he was still convinced the attack-leader had the attributes for which he was searching as he set about his monumental Celtic squad rebuild in the summer.
THUMB’S UP…that’s Ange Postecoglou’s take on Giorgos Giakoumakis’ progress.
And the Greek-Australian gaffer has been proved correct in his assessment of the powerhouse frontman’s qualities with Giakoumakis contributing 11 goals – including two hat-tricks – since the turn of the year while Kyogo Furuhashi has been sidelined with a hamstring problem.
The progress shown by the raider has been emphasised by the fact he has been called into his country’s international squad and led the line in the 1-0 friendly win over Romania during the week and he is likely to be required to do so once more against Montenegro tomorrow night.
Postecoglou said: “Sometimes in football these things are about timing and opportunity.
“People forget that we had to be pretty creative with how we brought players in last summer. It wasn’t a matter of going out there and spending money.
“We knew we had to do a lot of recruitment in one window. We had to look far and wide to get value for us and also ensure the players would fit into our system.
“Giorgos had a great season in Holland last year and that brought him to the attention of a lot of clubs, not just us.
“From our perspective when I looked at him – the type of player he was and then spoke to him and realised the type of person he was, too – I thought he’d be a good fit for us.
I’VE GOT YOUR BACK…Ange Postecoglou and Giorgos Giakoumakis.
“And it has worked out well for him so far. He had a disrupted time in the first few years of his professional career.
“Sometimes when that happens it just means they blossom a bit later and hit their peak later on.
“Hopefully, his best years are well ahead of him, not just in the next couple.”
Postecoglou, speaking to the Sunday Mail, added: “Giako had a really tough start at Celtic, a tough first half of the season.
“He came in really late, missed pre-season and had a couple of injury setbacks. So, he never really got going.
“But since the break, he’s obviously got himself fit and ready. When he missed the penalty against Livingston it wasn’t a great way to start his Celtic career.
“But what was important was how he reacted to that. Because that pressure was never going to change. That’s the expectation when you are a striker at this club and you have to embrace that responsibility.
“Giako wanted that and that’s why he is getting the rewards now.
“Is he a confident type? Not many of these No.9s aren’t!
GOAL-DEN GREEK…Giorgos Giakoumakis celebrates his second strike in the 3-0 Scottish Cup win over Dundee United.
“I’ve met a few and they tend to have a bit about themselves. When you want to be a striker, you understand what comes along with it.
“You are not going to be anonymous if you’re scoring goals, so I think he is confident.
“At the same time, he is humble enough to know he still has a way to go. He still has to work hard to improve his football and improve himself.
“I think it’s more that he has a belief in himself rather than being over-confident in his own ability.
“If you’re going to play for this football club and do well then there is no doubt you’re going to get highlighted.
“Because you’re playing in front of 60,000 supporters, usually competing for honours, trophies and playing in European games.
“So you will get noticed. That’s part of the attraction in coming here. The pressures here mean you have to succeed.
“Giakoumakis is a great example of that.”
It is almost certain the spotlight will be on the Greek attack-leader when the Premiership resumes a week today with the Hoops facing Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s outfit at Ibrox.
He was out of luck in Celtic’s 3-0 romp in the east end of Glasgow in the last derby confrontation and was denied a couple of times by overworked keeper Allan McGregor.
But the forward has continued to improve since the start of February – with nine goals in 11 games – and he is determined to hit the headlines once more in an encounter that will undoubtedly go a long way to deciding the destination of this season’s crown.