Brendan Rodgers drops hints about imminent Reo Hatate return

The Celtic Star attended the post-match media conference at Celtic Park this afternoon after the Hoops defeated Livingston 2-0, a scoreline that flattered David Martindale’s relegation favourites who provided a perfect example of anti-football this afternoon and must be proud of keeping the scoreline respectable having had zero shots at goal and zero corner-kicks.

Jessica Elliott attended on behalf of The Celtic Star and even managed to have a wee chat with the manager after the conference ended. Here’s what was said:

Q: Feels like you’re getting back to your old selves?

Brendan Rodgers: “Listen, it was a very good win. It’s obviously been a tough week on the back of the two league results that we’ve had. Naturally, when you’re a Celtic player or coach, it’s not what you want. But today, I thought the players were excellent. Right from the first whistle, the tempo in the game was really good. We could control the game. Created lots of opportunities and probably the players didn’t get what they deserved out of the game, which was probably a higher score line. Some really good moments in the game and delighted with the performance and win.

Kyogo Furuhashi of Celtic celebrates after scoring his team’s opening goal during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Livingston at Celtic Park  on December 23, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Q: You spoke yesterday about unity and how everyone needs to get behind the team. At half-time, there could’ve been frustration about not scoring but there wasn’t?

Brendan Rodgers: “Clearly, the supporters here, they’re not daft. They understand football. You know, there’s been a few games here where we haven’t been as comprehensive as what we had been going into half-time, but I think they can see that we were creating opportunities, we just hadn’t put the chances away.

“That’s what I reinforced to the players at half-time. Just that you have to be persistent now. You don’t need to change anything, just keep the structure, keep the speed in the game and the opportunities will come. Thankfully we got the early breakthrough, and we could push on from that.”

Luiyi de Lucas of Livingston vies with Kyogo Furuhashi of Celtic during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Livingston at Celtic Park Stadium on December 23, 2023 . (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Q: Is it important that Kyogo got a goal?

Brendan Rodgers: “I think he’s three goals short of where he was last season. For me, it’s more important for the team. The team needs it. Clearly, strikers, attacking players, it’s their job to create and score goals so I think you seen the relief in his face. He was happy to score and it was a good finish because he’s read it well, cross comes and it was nice for him to get the goal, because he had some other opportunities that didn’t quite drop for him. From a team perspective, it’s exactly what we needed.”

Q: What’s Kyogo like? Does he get a bit down when he doesn’t score or is his confidence still high?

Brendan Rodgers: “I think it’s one where there’s probably been moments of frustration for him this season because he maybe hasn’t quite had the ball through or maybe had the runs in behind that allows him to get into positions that really highlights his clever movement. But he’s kept going. He’s kept persistent. He’s obviously got this shoulder issue, but he’s kept working and that’s important.

“Like I say, he’s just short of where he was last season in terms of goals, but I think any striker – they want to get goals. For me, it’s not about just the striker because you can have a striker that gets 40 goals but it’s not good if the other members of the team aren’t contributing. So yeah, nice to get a goal for him. Also nice to get one from a set piece as well. For me, we need to be much better in that area, so we looked a threat from those moments and obviously get the goal from Liam.”

Q: Pleased with the contribution from Luis Palma?

Brendan Rodgers: “Yeah. I think since he’s come in, in fairness to him, he’s created goals and scored goals. Like you say, he’s very good on those dead ball situations. It was good contribution from him.”

Q: Does Reo Hatate have a chance of playing on Tuesday or Saturday?

Brendan Rodgers: “Possibility, but we’ll just have to see on that. He’s been out on the grass and he’s been working well. He looks strong and fit. We’ll just have to assess that and weigh up the risk.

“For the second part of the season, he’s going to be huge for us. He’s such an instrumental player and the dynamic that he gives the team. He hasn’t featured much in the first part of the season but a game he came in to earlier on in the season, the whole speed of the game was different.

“That’s what we’re about, that tempo, that intensity. So the quicker we get him back, it’ll be like a new signing for us.”

Daizen Maeda of Celtic shoots at goal during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic FC and Livingston FC at Celtic Park Stadium on December 23, 2023 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Q: Maeda came in today and did his bit. Is Abada close to returning?

Brendan Rodgers: “He’s getting there as well. We’ll just have to see with Liel. He’s been out for a little while, but I think, for the likes of Liel, if it’s not for the next few games then certainly by the second part of the season, he should be a great help to the team.

“Daizen gets his game time today. You can see he’s not fully fit but it’s another game for him, another 60 odd minutes and that’ll help him.”

Q: Does having Maeda return to the starting line-up help raise the tempo of the team?

Brendan Rodgers: “Football will always look different if you’ve got players with the profile of speed in the game, and that’s how this team has been built. The minute you take that out, that penetration to go in behind, then everything can be in front and that’s not how my teams work or how this team works. You can see the threat he offers in behind puts people on the backfoot and then it puts you into depth which is where you want to go because you want to create opportunities and be able to score goals. So, he gives us that and it’s good to have him back. And when Abada comes back, he’ll give us that and we’ll see what we can do in January as well to increase that.”

Jessica Elliott

About Author

I'm a student journalist and Celtic supporter. I'm delighted to have been recently appointed women's football writer for The Celtic Star, where the coverage of the Celtic FC Women's team has been incredible and unrivalled over the past three seasons.


  1. Playing Reo in any games before the Asian Cup starts, would be a major mistake. Here’s my reasoning. No doubt the manager of Japan is keeping a close eye on the situation. If Reo plays domestically before the international tournament starts, he will most likely be called up for the tournament. By not playing Reo, Celtic can refuse any such call up, stating quite honestly, that the player is continuing his rehabilitation.

    Hail Hail.