Reo Hatate describes Celtic’s ‘godsend’ as he claims Rangers double made him a target for rivals

Celtic star Reo Hatate revealed his double against Rangers in February and immediately made him a target for opponents.

The midfielder scored twice in the first half of his old firm debut as Celtic rampaged at his rivals, knocking them out in a game that completely changed the title race.

But while he was happy to do so and believes God was on his side for the game, he admits it’s given him a lot more kicks as rivals try to stop him.

They’ve tagged him tighter throughout the campaign since and he’s had to figure out how to get away from the physical struggles that have left his ankles a bit sore.

The game at Celtic Park was a head-turner that night and Hatate admits he had goosebumps all night.

He said: “I think people played differently against me after that, the marking got tighter – more physical.

“The players often caught my ankle when they went for the ball. I think the opponents looked at the game and thought: ‘I have to do this now’.

“I am glad that my years of work have prepared me for such an event.

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

“I remember getting goosebumps the first time I walked onto the pitch just before kick-off.

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

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

“But I have 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 these pieces together fit me perfectly.”

Hatate was signed by Ange Postecoglou in January and the Japan international admits he never expected things to go so well last year.

He played in the Olympics before joining the Hoops and admits his aim had been to win the J-League but he surpassed that by winning the Scottish Premiership trophy.

Reo Hatate and Ange Postecoglou
Reo Hatate and Ange Postecoglou

He added: “You know what it takes for manager at Celtic. We play good football at a high level and training is always closely linked to the game

“He tells us every day that we have to work hard and he always motivates us. I could not have imagined all 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 championship with Celtic.

I didn’t think I could play in the Olympics but it was postponed for a year. Maybe I was lucky, but it was all very fulfilling.

“It was incredible to win the J-League for the second straight year and then go to Celtic who were fighting for the championship. I feel really blessed and I have to thank my teammates.

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

“As an attacking player, it’s very painful when I don’t get results – I can’t score goals or assist. But I also feel like there’s more I can do, like move players around and calm the game down.

“I don’t know if this is what I’m looking for, but my range of play has expanded. I was able to calm down when I thought “don’t rush”.

“I feel like I was able to work defensively. I think I was able to discover a new part of the game.”

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