‘FANTASTIC’: KYOGO’S GRIN AND TONIC

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KYOGO FURUHASHI insists it is smiles better at Celtic when he and his team-mates can make the Hoops followers happy.

The prolific hitman took his goal tally to 30 for the season with his trademark near-post flick to opening the scoring in the 2-0 title-clinching triumph against Hearts at Tynecastle at the weekend.

Kyogo led the celebrations in the Green Party as the squad returned from Edinburgh to be greeted by thousands of celebrating fans outside Parkhead.

JUST CAPITAL…Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates title-winning success over Hearts at Tynecastle.

There will be no Hoops supporters to be seen or heard at hostile Ibrox on Saturday afternoon, but their absence will not prevent the fleet-footed 28-year-old from attempting to add to the half-century of strikes he has collected since his £4.6million recruitment from J-League Vissel Kobe in July 2021.

He claimed his first goal against the city rivals with a late leveller in the 2-2 draw in Govan on January 2 and thumped in doubles in the 2-1 League Cup Final success at Hampden in February and the 3-2 Premiership victory at Parkhead last month.

Reflecting on a memorable campaign with four league games and a Scottish Cup Final still to be played, Kyogo said: “There have been a lot of good games and tough games.

“But, in general, as the manager mentioned, we wanted to try and achieve more than last season by winning the Cup and the league. Now we are doing well compared with last season.

DERBY DELIGHT…Kyogo Furuhashi races away in triumph after netting the opening goal in the 2-1 League Cup Final victory to spark an inquest between Allan McGregor and Ben Davies.

“The goals are because of everyone’s support and the fact they are running to get the ball and are trying to supply me with it where I want to score the goals. It’s a credit to them.

“At the same time, I didn’t manage to score from some situations which I should have scored from. But, overall, I’m very happy.”

Remarking on the impromptu celebrations outside Celtic Park on Sunday, the international hitman, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “It was just fantastic!

“Our job is to see the supporters’ smiles. That is what we play the game for and that’s why we want the win. We want to see the supporters with smiles on their faces. It is great to see all the time and recently we can dance together and that is uniting us and I am very happy about that.

“There are good players and famous players, so I don’t agree [I am the fans’ favourite], but I am happy to be one of them.”

The champions go into the sixth and final Glasgow derby with a ban on away fans in operation, but, although the confrontation is basically meaningless with the crown already returning to the east end of the city for the eleventh time in 12 years, it is still a challenge to be met and conquered by Kyogo and Co.

THE MASKED HITMAN…Kyogo Furuhashi dresses up for the occasion before a training session at Lennoxtown. Image courtesy Celtic TV.

Ange Postecoglou’s men have won four of the previous five while accumulating 12 goals and conceding five.

It’s an unbeaten sequence the Parkhead men fully intend to extend in Govan and Kyogo acknowledged the encounter will be unique.

He added: “I feel that from the atmosphere in the stadium. It is totally different from the other games because it is a derby.

“I think as a team and as individuals we have more confidence compared to the beginning.”

Kyogo could have been referring to his baptism at Ibrox a month after his arrival on these shores. He was one of five debutants while the fixture was also new to Postecoglou who joined up just six weeks ahead of the striker.

Celtic lost 1-0 that afternoon, but a lot has changed since that day – for Celtic and Kyogo.

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