History lesson is positive for Celtic's Japanese trio with one notable exception

The next stage of Ange Postecoglou's Asian experiment will begin in earnest at Celtic Park this evening when as many as four Japanese players could take to the pitch against Hibernian.

If Reo Hatate, Daizen Maeda and Yosuke Ideguchi have even 50 per cent of the impact made by Kyogo Furuhashi then it might just provide Celtic with the springboard to overhaul Rangers in the title run-in.

Of course, signing players en masse from one country in the hope of it yielding some kind of instant success is nothing new – and there are all kinds of examples to back it up. Milan dominated Serie A in the 50s thanks to their formidable Gre-No-Li triumverate of Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm. It was a strategy Arrigo Sacchi's Immortals emulated 30-odd years later when they hoovered up the best talent from Holland over the course of two seasons when they signed Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard and promptly won back to back European Cups. Shortly before, their city rivals Inter had won a scudetto off the back of the efforts of the German trio Andreas Brehme, Lothar Matthaus and Jurgen Klinsmann.

Closer to home Arsenal's turn of the century success was built on Frenchmen, Rangers utilised Dick Advocaat's Dutch connections, Livingston exploited lesser-heralded names from the Spanish market and Dundee dabbled with a couple of Georgians.

As prices rocketed in Britain, bargains were aplenty on the continent so much so that, these days, it is common to see multiple nationalities represented in a group 20-plus players, albeit Brexit is demonstrating a reversal in that trend with more players being recruited from Ireland and, similarly, seemingly more deals being done by Premier League clubs for Scotland's best players.

Of course, shopping from the same supermarket is not always a guarantee of success. Who can forget the Raith Rovers experiment under Claude Anelka?

Anelka arrived at the Kirkcaldy club in 2004 promising a raft of exciting French signings and promotion from the first division and while there were indeed multiple arrivals from across the Channel most – including Hamed Sacko, Amar Benaissa and Rudy Pounosaamy – were amateurs from France’s regional leagues. Anelka left after three months with relegation a near-certainty from which Raith took years to recover.

A big for week St Johnstone

Callum Davidson's side lost seven cinch Premiership games in a row prior to the winter break to slump to the bottom of the table. They could take some solace from the fact that two of those games came against Rangers and Celtic, less so from defeats to the teams above them in the relegation battle they now find themselves in. It doesn't get any easier tonight, though, when they travel to third-place Hearts. What Davidson needs is for new defensive signings James Brown – who had a successful loan spell at the club last season – Tony Gallacher and Dan Cleary to bed in quickly. But it is at the other end that his side needs help most with their 11 goals this season, the lowest by some distance of any team in the top flight. They must hope that it is the Nadir Ciftci that took the league by storm in 2013 that they have signed, rather than the player that huffed at Celtic before moving to Turkey and flopped on his return to the SPFL in 2018 with Motherwell.

Slow down on the Rush headlines

One of the pitfalls of sports journalism in the modern era is the propensity for website fillers to seize on any fresh interviews they might find, take the best quotes from those stories and repackage them as their own.

Which is why a portion of my Saturday night was spent in WhatsApp dialogue with an aggrieved Sligo Rovers coach who had read a headline in which he was supposed to have claimed that new Celtic striker Johnny Kenny, his former protege at the League of Ireland club, was the next Ian Rush.

The main takeaway from the piece was that Kenny is not one for going overboard, is a hard worker and certainly not a big shot. The big issue with lifting quotes in blanket fashion when you've not actually spoken to the person in question is that they are denuded of any context. And so, a speculative answer about who Kenny bore a passing resemblance to is passed off as a legitimate statement of fact rather than an outright comparison of an 18-year-old striker with a year in the men's game under his belt to one of the best strikers of all-time in English football.

The blink of an eye

It seems like only yesterday that Doug Gillon, doyen of Herald athletics coverage for many moons, leapt forth from his seat, exclaiming a victory from the American college athletics scene. The identity of the winning runner was none other than Chris O'Hare, the future European Championship bronze medallist at 1500m, at a NCAA meet where he was representing the University of Tulsa.

“Brilliant stuff. It's Terry O'Hare's son. Terry's a friend and a great coach,” said Doug excitedly, much to the general befuddlement of the admittedly much-younger, less well-read sports desk.

O'Hare, of course, soon emerged as a star in his own right, winning not only that bronze in Zurich in 2014 but silver and bronze at the European Indoors over 1500m and 3000m respectively. His retirement last week merely emphasised just how the careers of our top sportsmen and women can fly past in a manner not dissimilar to the way they ran their races.

Spare a thought for the lesser-spotted sports

The green light was given to football and rugby to host big crowds again last week but spare a thought for those less storied sports which rely on indoor facilities in order for training nights to take place or games to be staged.

I had a conversation with Amanda McDonald, chair of the East Kilbride Pirates American football team, last week who revealed that the club's long-held plans to host a rookie tryout for senior players later this month are somewhat in limbo over Covid regulations on indoor sports – while merely securing a venue for practice or matches has become a logistical nightmare with preference more often than not given over to football leaving places to train at a premium.

Perhaps Duncan Smillie, owner of the Scottish Rocks, summed up the frustration for other team sports best on Twitter, when he wrote: “Still restricted at 200 for a Rocks game but 60,000 allowed 500 meters [sic] away at Celtic Park on Monday, you seriously could not make this up!”


The number of days basement side Cowdenbeath had to wait for a League 2 victory on their travels having defeated Stenhousemuir 2-0 at Ochilview on Saturday. The winless run stretched back to April 24 when, yes, you guessed it, they beat Stenhousemuir 2-0 at Ochilview.