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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Graeme McGarry

How Celtic 'process' and Harry Kewell have helped Yang Hyun-jun catch the eye

WHEN news filtered through that Daizen Maeda’s decision to leave a leg dangling out in the defeat to Atletico Madrid had proven even more expensive to Celtic than the red card he received on the night - and the subsequent thumping that was dished out to them - many fans despaired.

For all of Maeda’s raw edges, it is his raw energy and pace that would surely prove difficult to replace in Brendan Rodgers’ starting XI during the six weeks or so recovery time he needs from the injury he picked up in that controversial collision with Mario Hermoso.

With his impressive cameo against St Mirren the previous midweek perhaps still fresh in the mind of Rodgers, the Celtic manager opted to throw Yang Hyun-jun into Sunday’s clash against Aberdeen in Maeda’s stead, and he was rewarded with a dazzling, goalscoring display from the South Korean.

After a bright start to his Celtic career, Yang had tailed off a little to find himself out of the side, but he has roared back to eye-catching form in recent weeks. That improvement has come, according to Rodgers, through his hard work behind the scenes with Celtic coach Harry Kewell, and his willingness to take on instruction from his manager.

So, while there may be a language barrier at present as Yang continues to assimilate into life in Scotland, there is no doubt whatsoever that when it comes to his football, he fully understands what is expected of him.

“On the pitches, the football is the language and it’s universal,” Rodgers said.

“The analysis and the feedback is constant, all the players get that - and we feed forward to them too because you need that in order to progress. That’s where you hopefully see the building taking place.

“They know that if they play and then not do so well, it’s about constant growth. Sometimes you’ll play, come off at half-time, be on the bench or maybe not even be involved. But it’s a constant process that never changes.

“He’ll sit with the coaches, me and talk around his game and [we will] acknowledge how hard he works. He’s come from a different culture, half-way across the world and it takes time.

“The players do their lessons and English classes, so eventually they’ll get the language. Like everything, it’s about what you put into it. If ever I need to have clarity and be really clear so they understand we bring in the translator so everything is understood.

“The club is great with that because these boys can be easily left to just come in and have nothing, just be expected to get on with it and learn English. But it’s not as easy as that, so they have that support.

“The process is on the pitch, he’ll sit down with Harry Kewell to go through the positioning on the wingers.

“Harry speaks to me about our structure and then it feeds back. That’s the process.”

Yang was forced to leave the field himself midway through the second half of Sunday’s game after picking up a cut on his face following an accidental collision with Aberdeen full-back Jack MacKenzie. But when domestic action resumes after the international break, he will be hoping he did enough during his time on the pitch to persuade his manager he is again the man to step into Maeda’s boots.

Certainly, Rodgers is in no doubt that he will also be doing everything he can on the training pitch to get the nod when Motherwell come calling a week on Saturday, having missed out on a call up to Jurgen Klinsmann’s South Korea squad this time around for matches against Singapore and China.

Club teammate and compatriot Oh Hyeon-gyu – who hit a late double in the rout of Aberdeen – has made the cut, but Rodgers is expecting a good reaction from his young winger after being left back in Glasgow.

“As a young player we know he’s going to develop but you need the right attitude to do that,” he said.

“He has that and he’s doing that.

“Sometimes it takes time to understand the things that are asked of you and it’s up to us to find how best you fit into the structure.

“I thought he was excellent [against St Mirren], he gave us energy and penetration that we’d lacked in the game. He was very good with and without the ball.

"[He] is a young player who I was really pleased with [against Aberdeen, too]. I think when he first came here, he either beat his man or lost the ball. But now you see the development taking place with him".

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