TOMOKI IWATA insists he will continue to work hard to impress Brendan Rodgers.
The versatile performer, who was Japan’s Player of the Year before arriving at Celtic in January, had to wait until a week ago today to make his first appearance for the Irishman.
Iwata was pitched into the Champions League opener against Feyenoord in Rotterdam when he was sent on as 67th-minute substitute for Kyogo Furuhashi in the aftermath of centre-back Gustaf Lagerbielke’s red card.
The utility star played alongside Liam Scales in the middle of the rearguard as Rodgers’ men came under the cosh with Odin Holm dismissed only six minutes after his fellow-Swede had been banished.
UP, UP AND AWAY…Tomoki Iwata beats Ryan Kent in a challenge during the 2-1 Viaplay League Cup Final win.
And Iwata was introduced on the hour mark for a tiring Reo Hatate in the 3-0 win over Livingston at the weekend.
Last season, the 26-year-old international was a treble winner under the guidance of Ange Postecoglou when he played as a substitute in the 2-1 Viaplay League Final success over Michael Beale’s Ibrox side and the entire game when the Parkhead men lifted the Scottish Cup in the 3-1 victory over Inverness Caley Thistle.
Iwata also played 13 Premiership games to qualify for a title winner’s medal.
The former Yokohoma F Marinos anchorman hopes he has done enough to convince Rodgers he can play a crucial role as the season unfolds.
Quizzed in his homeland about his chances of being chosen for the Group E encounter against Lazio at Parkhead a week tomorrow, Iwata answered: “It’s unclear whether I’ll be able to play on the pitch.
“However, I will try to appeal in training in order to seize the opportunity. By gradually increasing my chances to play in this way and I can make the coach realise that I am a player who can bring something positive to the team.”
The midfielder, speaking to Football Zone, added: “In the match against Feyenoord, Calvin Stengs was attacking us one-on-one in a fairly narrow space. I want to show that I can stop a player like that. That’s my strength and it’s my selling point.
ON THE BALL…Tomoki Iwata in control during the 3-1 Scottish Cup Final victory over Caley Thistle.
“If I can pitch in as a midfielder, I feel like I’ll be able to match up with the opponent’s key players more often and have more opportunities to show off.
“However, my strength is also that I can play a wide range of positions as a midfielder, wing-back and centre-back.
“During my time at Marinos, I contributed to the team by playing a variety of roles and won titles. In the same way, in the current environment, I just have to do my best every day.”
Iwata will be hoping to get the nod in Rodgers’ squad for the Premiership match against Motherwell at Fir Parkhead in the 12.30pm kick-off on Saturday before the focus swings back to Europe’s elite competition and the visit of the Serie A outfit.