There are certain Celtic players who have inspired in me a kind of cultish fascination. Earlier in the season when some were wondering what Daizen Maeda brought to the team I wrote some articles praising his work-rate and the unheralded contribution he makes to the side. What a difference a World Cup can make to perception.
The World Cup forced many to take another look at Maeda, and the same with Aaron Mooy. They returned from that competition transformed in the eyes of a lot of people.
They never looked back in terms of their growth within Celtic itself.
Maeda has been an exceptional signing, and he’s one of my cult heroes in the side. The long-standing joke about me is that I was a Samaras fan long before that was fashionable. I’m only slightly ahead of some folk on the Japanese dynamo.
I don’t give a nickname to every Celtic player, and I don’t know why I was inspired to give Maeda one except that I love watching the guy play.
I struggled with it for ages because I couldn’t think of one that was suitable.
For ages, at games, whenever he was on the ball I’d mentally find myself referring to him as DMZ. It was stuck in my head; I don’t know why. I couldn’t work out what the Z was supposed to stand for.
In geopolitical terms, the DMZ is in Korea, not Japan, and had nothing whatsoever to do with football.
Not that any nickname was going to necessarily be football related.
It’s only in the last couple of months that I started referring to him as DM, and that led, almost automatically, to Danger Mouse.
The second the words came out of my mouth I knew I’d nailed it. Amazingly, it took me a month or two to refer back to the theme song itself, but blimey; it could have been written for the guy!
He’s the greatest, he’s fantastic
Wherever there is danger he’ll be there
He’s the ace, he’s amazing
He’s the strongest he’s the quickest he’s the best!
I just bloody well love that!
Doesn’t it sum him up?
Doesn’t that brilliantly encapsulate the footballer we have on our hands?
Look at the goal he scored at Ibrox, the speed of thought, that athleticism.
Look at the goal from the weekend; how does he get to that ball first, with four Ibrox players in front of him and one almost on top of it? And the cross is perfection itself, under pressure, hit with uncanny confidence.
He personifies the way the whole team plays. He is the embodiment of We Never Stop, and the more I watch him the more I realise how lucky we are to have him.
He has 11 goals and 7 assists in this campaign.
As impressive as those numbers are, on their own, they don’t come close to doing justice to his overall contribution to this side.
It was inevitable that he would play a starring role at the weekend, and although much of the focus in the media has been on the defensive lapses that led to the goal, the real focus should be on the unfathomable alertness and ruthlessness shown by Maeda in exploiting the situation.
If he had been on the other team, the media would be hailing this guy from the rooftops as a player of immense quality. When you look at the honey they’ve poured on the likes of Ryan Kent, it is ridiculous that this guy remains largely unheralded.
Except by us. We know genius when we see it.
We know quality when it stands out, this obvious, in front of us.
Maeda is in the pantheon of heroes now … he could make himself a legend here.
He really is, as the song says, the strongest, the quickest and the best.