“Oh is an idol for every young player in South Korea,” former coach Kwak Hee-ju

Much like Celtic’s signing of Alastair Johnston was made in anticipation of the sale of Josip Juranovic, Celtic’s purchase of Oh Hyeon-gyu sees a ready-made replacement for Giorgos Giakoumakis already in situ and prior to the conclusion of the Greek striker’s protracted £3.5m plus add-ons transfer to MLS side Atlanta United.

Alastair Johnston of Celtic evades Rory McKenzie of Kilmarnock during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic FC and Kilmarnock FC at on January 07, 2023 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The hope of course is the encouraging signs right-back Johnston has shown as Juranovic’s replacement will be mirrored up front for Celtic, with Oh also showing plenty of promise in his brief sojourns from the Celtic bench in recent weeks, as he looks to fill the void of Celtic’s very own super-sub Giakoumakis.

For those looking for some further assurance as to the abilities and attitude of Oh, other than the brief appearances to date and the 14 goals he score on the K-League prior to joining Celtic, former coach Kwak Hee-ju – a former South Korean international himself – and Oh’s coach at 15 years of age – has some encouraging words for the Celtic support, as reported in Scottish Sun regarding his willingness to learn alongside his early promise as a footballer.

“I watched a game he was playing in and straight away, I felt he had the talent to be a very good striker. At 15, he was a player with excellent physical strengths and skill. It seemed like he already knew how to behave as a professional footballer. Oh has always had a lot of curiosity to learn and he absorbed good advice and lessons.

“Even if Oh was doing well at an amateur age, he was not satisfied. He never stopped learning. The biggest strength of this player is that he will always ask for advice and look to improve his game. Oh won’t think he has learned everything just because he has made a big move to Europe.

“He will learn from the strengths of players who have good skills at Celtic. Oh is an idol for every young player in South Korea. He is an exemplary professional. Rather than direct guidance, I was in a position to give simple advice to Oh. He was very polite in accepting that. He had a great attitude and his affection for soccer was quite deep.

Celtic v Livingston – Kyogo Furuhashi left is substituted off for team-mate Hyeon-Gyu Oh during the cinch Premiership match at Celtic Park, Wednesday February 1, 2023. Photo Andrew Milligan

“You didn’t have to give Oh specific guidance, we just spoke about football. Did I always feel he could go to Europe one day? Well, he was so good at trying to learn soccer. The relationship between Oh and his coaches was so exemplary that I felt that there would always be great chances for him to do well in the game.”

Oh has some pretty big boots to fill at Celtic, after all Giakoumakis was arguably one of the best and most reliable goalscorers Celtic have had in reserve in many years. As such there is always a nagging doubt at such a talent moving on, and further concerns if the man chosen to step into his shoes is up to the task.

Early indications from Oh’s performances have been encouraging, but further inspiration is offered by his coach’s comments on his attributes and his mentality. In truth it is difficult to remember a period in Celtic’s history where the squad depth has been so strong, or indeed where the character of almost every signing has been a match for their footballing talents.

Celtic v Livingston – Hyeon-Gyu Oh during the cinch Premiership match against Livingston at Celtic Park:,Wednesday February 1, 2023. Photo Andrew Milligan

Ange Postecoglou has stated on several occasions the character of the player he targets is not simply as important as the footballing talent, but arguably more so. Thus far there can be little question surrounding the abilities and potential of the vast majority of Postecoglou’s signings and it would appear with Oh the same may well be true.

With Giakoumakis leaving as the business end of the Scottish football season commences, Oh will have plenty opportunity to show his promise, with Celtic still fighting on all three domestic fronts for silverware. Early signs for Oh certainly appear promising and the next few months may well see just what kind of player Postecoglou has signed in the shape of the Koran striker.

There are a lot of goals now needing replaced in this Celtic side and we’ll see soon enough if Oh’s impressive reference from his former coach rings true.

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

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