Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart has given an insight into how the Celtic squad reacted to the debacle surrounding Daizen Maeda’s recent injury struggles.

Initially, it was feared the electric Japanese wide-man would be out for the season after suffering an issue with his hamstring but – unsurprisingly to some – he made a miraculous recovery.

The 26-year-old returned to the team at the weekend, replacing Nicolas Kuhn with little under 20 minutes left of the Hoops’ dominative 3-0 win over Hearts.

Soccer Football – Scottish Cup – Quarter Final – Celtic v Livingston – Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland, Britain – March 10, 2024 Celtic’s Daizen Maeda celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

He received raucous applause when his number went up on the fourth official’s board and despite not playing since the enthralling 3-3 draw at Ibrox at the start of April, Maeda looked like he’d never been away.

Nathaniel Atkinson didn’t know what to do when the former Yokohama F. Marinos man came on, with Maeda constantly running and pressing the Hearts full-back, getting in behind him on several occasions.

Maeda’s return comes just in time for a potential title-deciding Glasgow derby at Parkhead this Saturday, and Hart has outlined how the Celtic squad dealt with the news of his initial injury and subsequent return.

He said: [The Celtic Way] “I’m not going to lie. It was tough as a squad when we got the news [about Daizen’s injury] – we thought he was going to miss the season. 

“It was innocuous, he finished the game [against Rangers]. We didn’t know how or when it had happened – it’s hard to know with Daizen because he doesn’t say much.

“But as a medical staff, as a team and as a person, we’ve got to give them credit. To be ready to not only play but to impact a game like that was quite special.”


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