Shunsuke at Celtic
Ali Hannah on Shunsuke Nakamura's move North
"Oh, it's so Japaneasy," is the little ditty
that the Celtic fans have coined to laud the contribution Shunsuke
Nakamura makes to Gordon Strachan's side, and certainly the
midfielder is capable of putting a smile on the faces of supporters
who feared they would spend this campaign frowning in the rain.
Since the departure of Martin O'Neill at the end of last
season and the dramatic, cruel collapse in the final day of the
season in which the Championship was conceded at Fir Park, there
were doubts about what the immediate future held.
The arrival of Strachan in place of O'Neill - a man worshipped
by the Hoops - met with a lukewarm reaction and by the time that
Celtic had crashed out of Europe at the ignominious first hurdle
and drew their first game of the season 4-4, ironically at Fir Park,
the daggers were threatening to come out.
It is to Strachan's credit that he has slowly started to
turn things around and the capture of Nakamura, after a long running
transfer saga, was one of the moves that started to garner him some
approval in the eyes of the support.
The little midfielder is slowly easing his way into a city that
likes to lay claim to its footballers, but if he has found the zestful
manner of the support overbearing he has not been letting on.
The Japanese midfielder revealed in the pages of the official
club magazine, The Celtic View, that he would even contemplate extending
his contract with the Hoops, such is the manner in which he has
acclimatised to life in the West of Scotland.
Nakamura's arrival at Celtic Park from Reggina prompted
a wave of excitement throughout the Hoops support and it's
easy to understand why; not since Henrik Larsson have Celtic fans
had a hero to worship and the job description that came with Nakamura
promised that this is exactly what he would be.
To date, he hasn't disappointed them. His debut against
Dundee United was hailed by Celtic manager Gordon Strachan as one
of the best he had seen, while his subtle touches and creative craft
were thoroughly enjoyed by the Hoops support.
Indeed, he could have marked his debut with a goal inside the
opening few minutes bar a desperate goalline clearance, but when
he did get his first goal for the club - against Dunfermline at
East End Park in a romping 4-0 win - he enjoyed the celebration
as much as the travelling support.
To give Nakamura his context within the place of Celtic, it has
to be pointed out that this is a club whose support have long feted
those who can offer something a little different with the ball at
Jimmy Johnstone, the mazey winger of the 60s and part of the legendary
Lisbon Lions who were the first British team to lift the European
Cup, had a bamboozling repertoire of skill, to the extent that his
opponents often resorted to illegal means at hindering his progress.
More recently, Lubomir Moravcik - who once trapped the ball with
his backside in one game and scored straight from a corner kick
in another - came second in the popularity stakes only to Larsson.
Larsson was a hero in Glasgow not just because of the 242 goals
he scored in 315 appearances, but for his application, his skill,
his determination and his ease at bringing out the best in those
If Nakamura came make a similar impact he will find himself the
recipient of an adoring public, but for that to happen he has to
be at ease on and off the pitch.
His wife and baby son are expected to join him in Glasgow in November
and it is a day he can't wait for.
"I think I will play better once they are over here and
with me," he said. "Until then I will just have to keep
sending and receiving video messages on my mobile phone. I record
clips of 40 seconds to a minute and they so the same for me. My
phone bill is big but I don't worry about the money."
The Scottish diet hasn't quite been sampled by Nakamura
although he has admitted that he will get around to sampling some
haggis sooner or later.
"Haggis. Is that a type of sausage?" he queried. "I'm
sure I will try it sometime because I eat anything. When you go
into town there are lots of Japanese, Italian and Indian restaurants
- everything. I have been taken to Oko, a Japanese restaurant, once
or twice and it is very good. There was nothing like that in Italy
- not even one Japanese restaurant. So I had to bring Japanese food
and cook for myself but Glasgow is much better. The weather might
be a bit cold but I'm pleased to be here."
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