There are nonetheless a couple of chapters to be written in Celtic’s story this season however the major narrative is for certain to chronicle an unlikely story of two strikers.
At McDiarmid Park on Boxing Day, the three factors earned by Ange Postecoglou’s hugely-depleted facet got here at a major value.
The sight of Kyogo Furuhashi departing the scene early whereas clutching his troublesome hamstring was an alarming one for these Celtic followers pressured to observe the closed-doors recreation from afar.
Giorgos Giakoumakis has helped information Celtic to a six-point lead over rivals Rangers
Every week beforehand, the Japanese had struck twice as Celtic got here from behind to win the Premier Sports Cup in opposition to Hibs.
The star man in Postecoglou’s revamped squad was, by widespread consent, irreplaceable.
At that time limit, the prospect of being with out him till April would have been unthinkable. The odds on a six-point deficit being changed into a six-point lead in his absence? Name your value.
Giorgos Giakoumakis had not been noticed in the six weeks previous to that day in Perth. The Greek had scored simply as soon as in his eight appearances, with a late missed penalty in opposition to Livingston including to a listing of woes together with Covid and accidents.
The participant’s hat-trick in opposition to Ross County final month was vital in Celtic’s title hunt
Frankly, there was treasured little to counsel he was the man to fill any void.
‘It was a really frustrating time for me,’ Giakoumakis recalled. ‘It was really difficult because I was trying to settle here and adjust to a new environment.
‘I was looking forward to coming here and playing my first games but it was harder than I thought.
‘I had an injury and also Covid so I was sick a couple of times. So it was difficult to get fit and strong and help my team-mates.’
An unsure begin to life in Glasgow examined his resolve. To prevail in such making an attempt moments, gamers want the unstinting religion of their supervisor. Postecoglou’s by no means waned.
Kyogo Furuhashi returned on Boxing Day earlier than happening once more after quarter-hour
‘Since the first moment I came here and had this hard time, he was always trying to help me and convince me that: “I believe in you”,’ stated the striker.
‘He told me just to try to get fit and that I was a really important player for him and the team. That was really important for me.
‘It made me feel good and relaxed. I could focus on my recovery. I worked even harder. That’s why I’m actually sturdy proper now.’
With Postecoglou typically obscure about the timescale for Furuhashi’s recuperation, it was clear the Greek must ship if Celtic have been to remain in the title race.
‘I didn’t really feel any stress as a result of I had belief in my capacity,’ stated Giakoumakis. ‘I knew what I was capable of doing. I had to play my game and be myself and not worry about anything else.’
The tide started to show with a first-time end at Alloa in the Scottish Cup, with one other objective instantly following in opposition to Hearts.
Giakoumakis wasn’t on the rating sheet in Celtic’s subsequent 4 video games however his work rate and willpower was nonetheless famous.
Furuhashi’s identify was by no means removed from the lips of followers and journalists however the Greek’s rising affect on the group mitigated in opposition to the affect of his fellow striker’s absence.
The Japanese’s doubtless return in opposition to St Johnstone tomorrow is welcome and well timed for the group. But the significance of the 11 targets Giakoumakis has scored since he final took the discipline is lost on no-one.
Ange Postecoglou has overseen a exceptional revolution at Celtic
‘I think I’m in the finest interval of my career,’ he stated. ‘I hope to keep scoring a lot of goals for Celtic. I will give my best for them and hope to have some successful seasons by winning some trophies. I’m very optimistic.’
At VVV-Venlo final season, the partitions of relegation have been closing in. Giakoumakis alone couldn’t stop the minnows from ultimately happening, however his 29-goal haul – the highest in the Netherlands – was staggering.
‘It’s a completely completely different state of affairs to be in, however my job is the similar,’ he stated. ‘I have to score, I have to give everything in the field to help my team to win. But it’s very nice to struggle for successful trophies slightly than making an attempt to not get relegated.
‘So, for me, this is something really beautiful and I hope we can win many trophies.’
Last Sunday, Celtic put a pair of fingers on the Premiership trophy with victory over Rangers. The white-hot ambiance inside Ibrox threatened to devour Celtic early on. Yet Giakoumakis, for one, felt proper at residence.
‘There are some huge games in Greece – derbies like that where the atmosphere is really crazy,’ he stated.
‘You get it between Olympiakos, AEK Athens, PAOK Salonica and Panathinaikos. They are the four big teams.
Giorgos Giakoumakis has stepped up in the absence of his teammate Kyogo Furuhashi
‘But the Old Firm is something special – even bigger. The atmosphere is really crazy. You can see how much people love football here, so I think it’s even greater right here.
‘Those experiences in Greece did prepare me for it. The derbies I’ve performed in earlier than made me stronger and gave me focus. On Sunday I needed to shut my ears and concentrate on my group.’
Celtic followers now sense they’ve an actual participant on their fingers. Different in type to Furuhashi however vastly efficient.
A win in opposition to St Johnstone tomorrow can be one other step in the direction of the prize that Giakoumakis and his Parkhead team-mates all need.
Kyogo Furuhashi was anticipated to return at Ibrox on Sunday however it was delayed
There are different reminders of the successes chalked updated. The spoils from his hat-trick exploits in opposition to Dundee and Ross County are by no means removed from view.
‘The balls are in a special room in my house,’ he revealed. ‘My son is already playing with them. I need to hide them because I have some signatures on the balls and I think they will soon disappear.
‘I think he will be football crazy like me. Actually I don’t care about that as I would like him to be wholesome first of all and do no matter he thinks goes to make him joyful.
‘But what I’ve seen to date is that, each time he’s crying and I’m watching soccer, he stops crying.’