KYOGO FURUHASHI is the most natural finisher at Celtic and has a massive part to play in the crucial countdown to the campaign’s crescendo.

The Japanese hitman, with 54 goals in his first two seasons at the club, has seen his rate dip disturbingly this season with a mere 13 strikes with only nine Premiership games to go plus, hopefully, three Scottish Cup-ties.

Brendan Rodgers insists Kyogo will have to step up if he expects to be guaranteed a first-team place, as CQN reported last week. Understandable rallying call, all things considered.

Puzzlingly, though, the 29-year-old international was left out of the starting line-up for the must-win encounter against Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday.

GOLDEN BHOY…Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates one of his 67 Celtic goals.

It was an occasion where the champions had been offered an opportunity to go back to the top of the table following their nearest challengers’ 2-1 loss to Motherwell at Ibrox 24 hours earlier.

With key figures such as skipper Callum McGregor and Reo Hatate missing through injury, a pivotal player such as Kyogo may have been viewed as a shoo-in.

It’s easy to be wise after the event, of course, and it was clear the burden of leading a 10-man line-up was too heavy for Adam Idah, even overlooking his awful penalty-kick that let the hosts off the hook so early in the game.

The Republic of Ireland forward, six years the junior of Kyogo, displayed an eagerness to put himself around, but it was only after the introduction of the £4.6million recruit from Vissel Kobe in July 2021 that the visitors showed any genuine threat.

Kyogo’s first thought every time the ball dropped at his feet was to drive into enemy territory. He added zest to the Celtic dynamic, but, alas, to no avail on this occasion.

DERBY DELIGHT…Kyogo Furuhashi thumps in the matchwinner at Ibrox in September.

Harry Hood was a good friend of mine. The former Celt was as gifted and talented as anyone you care to mention. Harry could pirouette with the best of them on the most treacherous of conditions.

The problem with a talented footballer was his lack of consistency. I asked him about his unpredictability and, forthright as ever, he replied: “Confidence, Alex, it’s all down to confidence. With that, you can rule the world.”

Not too sure if my gifted chum ever hankered over domination of the universe, but his words are on the button. Every footballer I have ever known, and there have been a good few, would echo those sentiments.

I don’t care if you are a brickie or a brain surgeon, an accountant or an astronaut. Confidence is an essential commodity.

A fully-fit, focused and functioning Kyogo is the solution to a Celtic problem. Rodgers has the answer right in front of him if he is searching for consistency at the so-called business end of the season. Idah will have a role to play, but I’ve got absolutely no doubt who should be the ldeading man.

There are two league matches against Phillipe Clement’s side coming  up. Kyogo MUST start in these derbies. The Ibrox club have already been put to the sword twice by two memorable matchwinning thrusts from the pacy raider.

PARADISE…Kyogo Furuhashi whips the ball past Connor Goldson in its way to its destination beyond Jack Butland.

Connor Goldson and Co will not admit it, but they will be terrified at the prospect of attempting to keep Kyogo quiet in the forthcoming confrontations.

To even think of leaving him out of the starting line-ups in these matches would be sheer folly.

Rodgers has to show his trust in the club’s most accomplished marksman, get him back in for the Scottish Cup-tie against Livingston on Sunday and leave him there until the end of the season.

We urgently require our main cast on display when the curtain goes up. We’ve got a league and Cup double to win.


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