REO HATATE took his first steps back to a Celtic return when he played 45 minutes of a bounce game yesterday.

The Japanese playmaker, suffering with persistent hamstring and calf problems, has made a measly 13 appearances for the champions during an injury-ravaged season.

Hatate has failed to start a match this year and his only outing in 2024 has been his 20-minute cameo in the 3-0 win over St Mirren in Paisley on January 2 when he replaced Paulo Bernardo with the game already as good as over.

LAPPING IT UP AT LIVI…Reo Hatate is congratulated by Matt O’Riley after netting his penalty-kick in Celtic’s 3-0 win in West Lothian in September.

Brendan Rodgers has already admitted a comeback for a pivotal performer would be “huge” for the Hoops, as CQN  reported earlier this week, with the club preparing for the eight-game obstacle course as they eye their twelfth title in 13 years.

The Irishman will now await follow-up reports on Hatate’s reaction to turning out for 45 minutes in a specially-arranged match against St Mirren at Lennoxtown which ended 2-2.

Rodgers will assess the influential midfielder’s progress which could lead to a place in the squad when the Parkhead men restart the Premiership campaign with a trip to Livingston in West Lothian a week on Sunday, as stated in the Daily Record.

REO’S BACK…Hatate is greeted by Callum McGregor and his team-mates following his spot-kick success at Livingston.

The Celtic gaffer will also take into consideration the notorious plastic pitch of the opponents and the possible adverse effects before making a final decision with the third Glasgow derby of the campaign due at Ibrox the following week.

Hatate’s last first-team start was back in October in the 2-2 Champions League draw with Atletico Madrid at Parkhead. He went down even before his countryman Kyogo Furuhashi had given the hosts the lead in the fourth minute.

He tried to carry on, but, three minutes later, limped off with Bernardo taking his place.

However, Reo could now be about to salvage something from the wreckage of a turbulent term.

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