Reo Hatate insists dream Celtic derby double saw him become target for robust rivals

Reo Hatate reckons his dream derby double was a gift from GOD – but insists it made him a target for rivals.

The Japanese star bagged a brace and set up another in a stunning display against Rangers at Parkhead.

And Hatate believes he was a marked man after that game shortly after his January arrival.

The 24-year-old said: “I think people played against me differently after that, the marking became tighter — more physical.

“Players would catch me on the ankle more when they were going for the ball. I think the opponents watched the game and thought, ‘I have to do this now’.”

But Hatate reckons the derby drubbing of the Light Blues was “perfect”. He said: “I am glad my years of work had prepared me for an occasion like that.

“But when it comes to what happened against Rangers with my goals, I think God was on my side!

“I remember getting goosebumps the first time I went on the pitch just before the kick-off.

“I was really nervous about that but then I was calm. I really felt the atmosphere and the fact that it blended into that pitch.

“Did I enter the zone that night? I think that’s a time you say that you can see the ball slowly or the opponent’s movements slowly.

“But I’ve no such experience, so what is the zone? I don’t know if that’s the case.

“However, I had a strong feeling and I think that these parts combined to make it a perfect match for me.”

That victory over Gers was huge in Celtic going on to claim the title and Hatate admitted it completed a dream year for him.

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Hatate helped Kawasaki Frontale win the J-League title before he moved to Glasgow and represented Tokyo at the Olympics.

And heaped praise on Ange Postecoglou, saying: “You know what is required for the manager at Celtic.

“We play good football at a high level and the training is always connected to the game

“He tells us every day that we need to work hard and he always motivates us.

“I couldn’t have imagined all of this a year and a half ago.

“I wanted to go abroad, but I didn’t think I would get this transfer.

“I wanted to win the J-League. Then I won the league with Celtic.


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“I didn’t think I would be able to play in the Olympics but it was postponed for a year.

“Maybe I had some luck, but it’s all been very fulfilling.

“It was amazing to win the J-League for the second time in a row and then go to Celtic, who were competing for the championship. I really feel blessed and I need to thank my team-mates.

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“The culture and environment are different and I had to fight alone because there were no people with me.

“Being an attacking player, it’s very painful when I don’t get results — I can’t score goals or assist.

“But I also feel there are more things I can do, such as moving players and calming the game.

“I don’t know if that’s what I’m looking for, but my range of play has expanded. I was able to calm down when I thought, ‘Don’t hurry’.

“I feel that I’ve been able to work in the defensive part. I think I was able to discover a new part of the game.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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