Ange Postecoglou praised Kyogo Furuhashi’s League Cup-winning goals and said there was “no way” the player would have allowed injury to force him out of the Hampden final.
Furuhashi returned to the Celtic team after weeks out with a hamstring injury and played the starring role in the Premier Sports Cup final, scoring twice to win his side the trophy after they had gone a goal down to Hibs.
The double took Furuhashi to 16 goals for the season so far and are the latest high points in what has been an impressive start to life in Scotland after Postecoglou signed him from Vissel Kobe this summer.
The Japanese forward hugged his manager in delight as the final whistle went and Celtic were confirmed as the winners of the season’s first silverware, and Postecoglou was quick to praise him afterwards.
“I feel a responsibility with him because I’m the one that brought him here from the other side of the world, the Celtic boss said.
“I don’t think anyone would have said that he was a cast-iron guarantee to be a hit. I knew he would be a fantastic player.
“He’s an even better person. From the moment he picked up the injury there was no way he was not going to play today, irrespective of what I was saying or the medical team was saying. And he wasn’t 100% but I knew he would play today.
“His movement is incredible. The quality of his finishing, to have that composure in such a big game… it’s one thing to get into that position but they are two world class finishes in a big game.”
Asked about bringing the player back quickly after a muscle injury, the manager said there was a risk with any decision but that the player was determined to play his part.
“Obviously there is more risk with somebody who is coming back from injury,” he said. “But good luck from me trying to keep him out.
“There was no chance. He would have snuck onto the bus and snuck onto the field at some point without me seeing.
“He just had it in his head he was going to play. He wanted to help the players and help the team and he wanted to be part of this.
“Having worked in Japan, I know their mentality. They are a really strong culture in facing up to their responsibilities and I think he felt responsible to go out there and help the players.”
Reflecting on the League Cup win, which saw Postecoglou deliver the first silverware of the season after rebuilding the Celtic team in the summer, he said: “I’m usually pretty good but I’m struggling to find the words this time. I’m just really proud of this group of players.
“As much as players and staff, as a group of people because pretty much from the day I walked in the door we’ve had some sort of challenge in front of us, almost on a daily basis, that we had to overcome.
“They’ve always found a way to do that and they haven’t made excuses or allowances and they’ve believed in what we’re trying to build here.
“Every time you thought ‘This is becoming too much, how can we overcome this obstacle?’ like today when the first time they were in our box they scored and you’re thinking ‘Here’s another on’ then the response is like it’s been from the moment I arrived.
“I’m just really proud of a group of people who get their rewards tonight and I’m really privileged to be part of it.”