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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Liam Bryce

Inside Yang's push to join Celtic as he reveals crucial advice

It is hard to recall the last player to make such an impassioned push to become to sign for Celtic.

For a while there, it felt as though there was another public plea from Yang Hyun-Jun every day, imploring Gangwon to relent and sanction his dream move to Europe. There was the not inconsiderable, but ultimately not insurmountable, issue that Gangwon are in the midst of a fight for their K-League lives, one that is not going particularly well judging by their position at rock bottom of the table.

The optics of selling their top talent in the midst of such a crisis are, obviously, not great. But that did not stop the 22-year-old winger chasing his ultimate ambition, one that has now been realised as a long-awaited agreement between Celtic and Gangwon allowed Yang to walk through the Parkhead doors to sign a five-year contract.

Seeing Celtic Park, and all that could come with it for the ambitious young South Korean winger, in the flesh has made Yang’s struggle worth it. He could have waited until winter, but the advice coming his way from all angles is that his Celtic career would stand a better chance of success if he started it off at the commencement of a season, not halfway through.

“It wasn’t easy because of the situation of my club, but it was definitely worth waiting for,” said Yang. “I was always looking forward to it.

“A lot of players and coaches around me in Korea told me that it might be more difficult for me to adapt if I arrived in winter. They suggested that if I could, I make the move in summer.

“I’m excited to meet the new manager and team-mates and also to train with them. I’m also looking forward to seeing and hearing the fans.

“It is my dream to play in this club, it is my dream to become a good player for the club.

“It’s true my former team were struggling and Celtic are the top team, but we all have difficulties sometimes at clubs. I want to become a player who solves these difficulties.”

Given the K-League kicked off back in February, it’s going to be a rather long campaign for Yang. But rather than worry about lasting the pace, he believes being in mid-season physical condition will serve him well.

His arrival was announced on the same day as countryman Kwon Hyeok-kyu, and the pair join international team-mate Oh Hyeun-gyu in growing Celtic’s Korean contingent to three. Yang spoke via an interpreter on his first meeting with the media, but revealed he plans to accelerate learning English in the coming weeks.

“Celtic are now in the pre-season, whereas I am in the middle of the season. I think that’s why I am more prepared,” he said. “I have watched a lot of Celtic matches and I know it is an attacking team. I am that kind of player but at the same time, I always try to get involved in defensive play as well. 

“I know that Oh and Kwon both speak better English than me but because I am a beginner, I think I can learn a lot faster than other players. 

“Oh was already famous because he is a national team player. With Kwon and I moving to Celtic, I think this will definitely have a good impact on Celtic fans in Korea because they all now know that Celtic is a team that won a treble last season.”

For Yang and Oh, meeting at Lennoxtown will be a reunion. Having become friends back in Korea, the new arrival is grateful for a familiar face as he adapts to life in Glasgow.

“Oh and I have been good friends for a while,” he said. “After the move to Celtic was agreed he gave me some good advice. The main thing was that I have to become more independent and show a good mentality as a player.

“I watched a few of his matches for Celtic and in one of the games he scored and made his signature pose. That was really inspiring to me and motivated me.

“I met him for the first time before the World Cup. I’m quite a shy person but Oh was very friendly and he took care of me, making some jokes. We went to cafes and restaurants together.

“They both take good care of me and I expect to settle in well and learn a lot from both of them.

Yang confessed the moment he experienced Celtic Park for the first time was an emotional one, but stressed that he knows now is only the beginning. He’s well aware that a step up in expectation and pressure awaits him, and there’s also the challenge of adapting to the standard of Champions League football. But he plans to lean on Celtic fans’ support as inspiration for a challenge he’s keen to meet head on.

“I was very fascinated and I am very impressed [with the stadium],” Yang said. “I was so happy looking at it and it felt like my dream was coming through.

“My first step is to adapt to the football here and play as many minutes as I can, let’s see how it goes.

“I need to work on my physicality and my conditioning training. I know the level of football in Europe is very high so I will start that as soon as I can.

“I always like stadia where it’s full. I’m sure that the fans here at Celtic will inspire me and support me in my bid to be an offensive player and help Celtic attack.

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