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Celtic legend Stiliyan Petrov’s sympathy for Kyogo over same criticism he endured

Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi suffers an injury during the match against Real Betis (Pic: Rob Casey / SNS Group)
Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi suffers an injury during the match against Real Betis (Pic: Rob Casey / SNS Group)

Stiliyan Petrov knows exactly what it’s like to be labelled a “diver” and a “cheat”.

The accusations that are flying around just now against Kyogo Furuhashi were also aimed at Petrov in his early days at Celtic.

After being signed for £2.8 million by John Barnes in the summer of 1999, the Bulgarian midfielder soon felt he was wrongly on the receiving end of the critics, who felt he went down too easily.

Petrov feels the situation is the same right now for the Parkhead club’s Japanese striker.

The Hoops legend told The Sunday Post: “When things like that are said about you – and you feel they are totally unfair – then it can lead to tough times.

“I’m not sure if Kyogo will be aware of what’s being said about him, but most of the negativity will be coming from social media.

“The most-important thing is that he will have the support of his manager, his team-mates and the Celtic fans.

“At the end of the day, that’s all that counts – and I had that when I needed it 20 years ago.

“What you need to remember is that Kyogo has arrived in Scotland from Japan, and he is playing football with new team-mates, against different opponents, and with a new style of refereeing from what he’s been used to.

“All that takes a period of adjustment for him. And it’s also about referees being aware that this is a new player, who has come to Scotland from a different culture.

“All round, there needs to be a level of understanding.

“There is also the language barrier, and that also makes life more complicated.

“That’s what I found – and I was only coming here from another European country. Kyogo is coming from a different continent entirely!

“It all takes time, and it’s like starting a new school. The style of teaching will be different from what you’ve been used to, and you have different class-mates.

“The teacher must also make allowances for the new pupil.

“But, despite the challenges that come with joining a new club, in a new country and not knowing the language, Kyogo has been brilliant.

“And do you know what? Considering he has only been here for four or five months, he will not have settled in fully yet.

“So the best has yet to come from him.

“Kyogo has had injury issues, with having to be substituted against Real Betis last Thursday night after coming on as a substitute being the latest

“However, I would imagine that after the winter break, and he’s had the benefit of a rest, he will find a new level in the second half of the season.

“Kyogo can help Celtic win the title. He is going to have a significant role to play, I’m certain of that.”

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Some 20 years apart, both Stiliyan Petrov and Kyogo have received criticism for going down too easily

Petrov has been thrilled with Kyogo’s contribution since his £4.5m transfer from Vissel Kobe in the summer.

He said: “I’ve been to Scotland many times this season to cover Celtic games, and I’ve really enjoyed watching the team under Ange Postecoglou.

“It’s already set in stone that Kyogo is an absolute bargain. His value has already rocketed.

“What a find he has been, and that’s credit to Ange for making sure the club pursued the player, and got the deal over the line.

“Kyogo is tactically astute. His awareness and movement is second to none.

“He can also finish and provide assists for team-mates. So very quickly he has become an absolute leader.

“I’d imagine he is a joy to play with. He must make life fairly easy for the midfielders, and the wide players.

“Imagine having a player of his quality to hit when you are in possession. Wonderful, just wonderful.”

© SNS Group
Kyogo Furuhashi goes down in the box against St Johnstone (Pic: Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

When Petrov has watched Celtic in action this season with Kyogo to the fore, he automatically thinks back to when he had Shunsuke Nakamura as a team-mate.

Signed by Gordon Strachan in the summer of 2005 for a bargain £2.5m, the Japanese star also lit up Parkhead, and Scottish football.

His work-rate was phenomenal, and the free-kick he scored against Manchester United to get Celtic into the last-16 of the Champions League will always be etched in Petrov’s memory.

The Bulgarian spent seven brilliant years with the Hoops, winning 10 domestic medals and being part of the side that reached the 2003 UEFA Cup Final.

Nakamura joined the Hoops a couple of years after they’d lost to Porto in Seville, and Petrov recalled: “He was an incredible footballer, and an unbelievable professional.

“He set high standards every day in training. He worked his socks off, and would often stay behind to do extra work.

“His ability to execute free-kicks at the highest level was down to hard work and dedication. It didn’t happen by accident.

“I’m fairly certain it will be the same with Kyogo.

“He will be getting plenty of encouragement from his team-mates, and I’m sure the likes of Callum McGregor will be playing an important role as captain.

“When I was at Celtic, I tried my best to make any new player – especially a non-Scot – feel a part of things.

“I’d take Naka for coffee, and encourage him to join in with the boys in the dressing room.

“It took a little bit of time, which was only natural and to be expected, but Naka soon got into it.

“And it was a lot easier when he learned a few words of English!

“He felt a part of it, and that definitely helped his football on the park. He was good fun, and had a proper sense of humour.

“Creating a nice environment in the dressing room is so important.

“Every player must be made to feel welcome. That makes them better on the pitch.

“Being happy off the pitch can help win games when you are on the park. Having a togetherness is vitally important.

“I’m sure Celtic have that now, and that can help them win games of football.

“The prize everyone wants is the Premiership title in May.

“Injuries aside, Celtic appear to be in a good place just now – and they will get better after the winter break.

“They definitely have the ability to win the title, and if the manager can bring in the two or three players he is looking for in the January transfer window, there will be a positive feeling, and a confidence that they can achieve their targets.”