In the run-up to the cup final, Ange Postecoglou went out of his way to confirm nothing, to deny nothing, to make no promises. And when the game kicked off, a certain Kyogo Furuhashi was in the starting eleven. And boy, were we glad that he was.
Whatever injury worries he had, he was then played against St Johnstone and there was a recurrence of it. That has kept him out ever since. Last night the manager suggested he’ll be out for a couple more weeks; the truth is, that allows us to hope that he’ll be fit for 2 February. There is no reason at this moment in time not to.
At this point, I think can revise my post from yesterday about him maybe still being selected for Japan. That’s not going to happen. Ange has been clear that he will certainly not be fit for active duty with their national team when the squad has to be named.
That squad is named at the weekend. Kyogo will be kept out of it. Right now, I hope that Hatate isn’t named either. Maeda may or may not be; I’d prefer him not to be. But Kyogo will still be in Scotland when the game against the Ibrox club kicks off.
The question now is whether or not he makes the squad. I think it’s likely. The manager will not rule it out, and if it was a done deal then he would. Kyogo will certainly fight like hell to be fit for that one and he will want to play, and no doubt about it.
Is this another version of the cup final maskirovka? One thing makes me think it might be, one thing makes me think it’s not, and we’ll which it is before the game takes place. Ange cannot throw Kyogo into that match off what would be a six week lay-off. If he plays even a minute before that game, you’ll know he’s going into it as a starter.
So whilst the cup final maskirovka was successful, it is harder to pull the same thing this time as the lay-off has been far longer. Whilst I think the player could handle it, you’d be asking a lot of him to even play 45 minutes in a game of that intensity if all he’s done is take part in a little training … and training, of course, tips the opposition off that he’s fit.
This presumes that the point of the trickery is to con the Ibrox club. Maybe we just want him here in Scotland for the game. Maybe that’s the thing. I don’t think Ange is necessarily lying about the extent of Kyogo’s injury issues, but the Japanese gave us a window when their national coach announced that he was a doubt the other day.
I would say it’s 50/50 that he plays. We might know more after the weekend – after the Japanese squad has been picked in other words – but for the moment we’re in the dark. Celtic is probably in the dark. Ibrox certainly is, but I don’t see how that can hold.
Even if we wanted to, there are too many variables here which would be involved in pulling a surprise on them, the most difficult of which to navigate successfully being the need for him to do at least some training with the rest of the squad.
We will not be planning for that game right away, but they will have an eye on it and they’ll be wondering already who they are coming up against. The longer we can keep their focus on that the longer we can delay them in their own approach.
In the very first presser with the fans, the big guy pointed out that he will seek every advantage in a battle with his foes. This would be one such example. The trick is, to know when to show the cards. I have no doubt that he is a superb judge of that.