For a neutral tuning into yesterday’s Glasgow Derby, who had also witnessed the meeting of the sides in February, it may have been viewed as somewhat harsh that Reo Hatate had become a figure upon whom the frustrations from the stands rained down on Sunday, having had his every touch lauded just three months previously as he arrived as the ‘skelper of the opposition.
Yet football supporters are a fickle bunch, as is the form of any player over the course of a season.
And so Reo Hatate moved from an untouchable in the eyes of the support to nigh on unbackable on his showing at Celtic Park yesterday. Hopefully Hatate however can treat both those imposters the same and not get too carried away when celebrated and not too down when derided.
After all, Hatate has already explained he is mentally and physically fatigued, and if he’s still being picked despite running on fumes, the responsibility for that lies with the manager and not the player.
Yet it appears Ange Postecoglou, as reported in The Herald has good reason for continuing to choose Reo Hatate – and others – rather than take him out of the firing line. And whether that means short-term stick from the stands or inconsistency in performance the manager’s reasoning is spot on.
“To a certain extent [some may be feeling tired]. For them, Matty [O’Riley] is 21-years-old and for Reo this is his first sort of journey outside of his own country and it has new challenges.
“I have said all along that there is a relentlessness when you play for this football club and you can’t rest on what you did last week or even the last pass or the last action. It’s constant and it’s always there.
“But you are never going to build that into players if you shield them away from it. This year my thoughts were just to expose as many of our players to it as I could. Earlier in the year we were throwing guys in without even training and the expectations are still there, you have to perform.”
For Reo Hatate yesterday will have been an eye opener. To go from the derby hero to the target of the support’s frustrations must have been a sore one to take. But as unfair as it may seem, given how much football the midfielder has played in the last 18 month, the international travel, cultural and language changes, and new teammates he’s had to acclimatise too, this is what is demanded at a top-level football club, or one at long last wishing to aspire to be one again.
Celtic supporters make high demands on our players because we know what is required to sustain success, and there is little room for inconsistency from anyone for any reason, justified or not.
The other side of that coin is when you do perform you will be lauded like few footballing outposts will offer. You will also be remembered and celebrated long after you’ve hung up your boots, and again that is not something many football clubs offer.
Both Liverpool and Manchester City players under Klopp and Guardiola suffered initially from the same tough love Reo Hatate – and others, because he’s not alone in being asked to return to the well week in week out – is getting from Ange Postecoglou.
Players were falling down injured; performances were impacted in those who weren’t, and the support let it be known there was no room for excuses. The players were targeted at times but so too were the managers who were called to rotate to avoid injury. Both those managers however stuck to their principles. Eventually the fitness and stamina improved and the consistency in performances arrived as less injuries occurred and as bodies soon learned to cope.
Now, no-one is saying Celtic are on a par with either of these two sides but it is all relative. In Scottish football terms Postecoglou has arrived with a similar revolutionary approach to football, and if we and the players trust in him, much like at Manchester City and Liverpool, the players will come out the other end able to handle the demands of the manager, but also those in the stands who have little time for excuses when there is silverware to be won and rivalries to contend with.
Reo Hatate took some stick yesterday and it will have stung, yet he also has experienced the adulation that comes when he hits the right notes, and perhaps by trusting in his manager and looking to peers at clubs like Liverpool and Manchester City he will realise he can and will come through this and next season the legs and brain will cope better with the demands.
That’s both from the manager and from the stands who both just want the same thing, high demands, high expectation and with all that, high levels of success. And Reo Hatate is at just the right club to receive all of that glory, but for now there may be some sacrifices to be made to reach the goal.