Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou in 'no doubt' assessment as Kyogo targets 1994 Old Firm record
The Japanese striker is bidding to become the first player from either side to score in four successive Old Firm games since John Collins did so for Celtic in 1994. It has been a remarkable turnaround since it was suggested the player was overawed by such occasions.
Kyogo was an often peripheral figure in meetings last season. He missed one Old Firm game due to injury and came off the bench in the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat in April. He was subbed after an hour of the last meeting of last season while a shoulder injury saw him helped off after five minutes of the first clash of this campaign.
The 28-year-old got off the mark in the January game in opportunist style with a late equaliser that kept Celtic nine points ahead of their rivals. He has since scored four more against Rangers, including a double in the Viaplay Cup final victory in February, to stand on 49 goals in total for the club. These feats have firmly put those who harboured doubts about his ability to adapt to Scottish football in their place.
Ange Postecoglou was never one of them, of course. The manager saw at first-hand what the player could do while working in the J-League and is not surprised by Kyogo now having the chance to emulate Collins.
Postecoglou recalled that it was not so long ago that people were asking whether Kyogo would ever break his Old Firm duck despite the fact he was contributing in other ways.
“People were saying he’s gone so many games without scoring," he said. "So (his recent record) it doesn’t really change anything. That’s what we’ve tried to really focus on - what you’ve done previously has very little relevance to what happens on Sunday.
"What’s important is that we go out there and play our football. And that’s what Kyogo has done whether he was scoring goals or not. He works his socks off for the team, he constantly puts himself into areas where he can be a threat to the opposition and he’ll do that at the weekend.
“Whether that manifests itself in goals for himself or us being able to score because of his work, I’ve got no doubt he’ll get to those levels. If the goals come then great. But I’ve got no doubts as to what he’s going to do in terms of his performance. That’s what he’s always done – put in one that’s going to help his team.”
As with Kyogo, there were doubts about Postecoglou’s ability to cope with the intense Old Firm environment, particularly after his side came off second best in the first one last season. Rangers, then managed by Steven Gerrard, won 1-0. But Postecoglou has lost just one since – last year’s clash at the same stage of the Scottish Cup final. He is unbeaten in three to date against Michael Beale.
“They are all separate entities,” said Postecoglou. “What’s important is that at the end of it you look at it as a collective and say ‘were we successful this year?’ That’s always going to be the measure.”
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