Entertainment, Sports

Celtic striker Giorgios Giakoumakis makes ‘fuel’ revelation – and vows to go up a gear during title run-in

FAILING to convert an injury-time penalty against Livingston at Parkhead back in October was one of the lowest points of Giorgios Giakoumakis’s football career, never mind his time at Celtic, to date.

Ange Postecoglou’s side would have clinched victory in the cinch Premiership game and leapfrogged their city rivals Rangers into top spot in the table if he had scored the spot kick and broken the deadlock at the death.

Giakoumakis, though, struck his effort from 12 yards out poorly and opposition goalkeeper Max Stryjek saved it easily to earn the ultra-defensive visitors a draw and a point.

The fans inside the 58,000 seater stadium who had stayed until the bitter end in the hope of seeing their heroes snatch a late winner were devastated.

Having netted just once since completing his £2.5m transfer from VVV-Venlo in the Netherlands at the end of August, the miss was hard for the striker to take.

But true character reveals itself in adversity.

As he looked back on the hat-trick he plundered in the 3-2 triumph over Dundee at Celtic Park on Sunday, Giakoumakis insisted that moment had simply increased his resolve to come good in Glasgow and been responsible for the fine form he is currently enjoying.

“To be honest, it was difficult,” he said. “But from these difficulties you grow up. You become stronger mentally and it was something, in the end, that really helped me a lot.”

Giakoumakis is also grateful to the unstinting support which his team mates gave him following that bitter disappointment and as he worked his way back to full fitness following minor knee surgery last year.

The 27-year-old, whose weekend haul took his tally in the 2021/22 campaign to seven, is pleased that he is now repaying them with goals.  

“They helped me a lot,” he said. “Even after the game, they all came to me and said it was fine and we would recover the points.

“To be honest, we are not kids. We have to make our mentality stronger ourselves. I owe a lot of things to my family. They are my strength and they deserve every success I have and every happiness.”

Giakoumakis was troubled by minor injuries after he arrived in this country in the summer and only made two starts before he had to undergo a routine knee operation.

Postecoglou was impressed with how hard his countryman worked during the shutdown to get himself fully fit and predicted that he would come good in the second half of the season. 

Sure enough, he has since proved himself to be an intelligent player in the opposition penalty box and a clinical finisher since play resumed after the winter break.

The forward has netted six times in his last 10 appearances and his heroics against Dundee on Sunday – he bagged his third with just four minutes remaining – secured a win which sent Celtic three points clear of Rangers.

Giakoumakis is certainly pleased to have put his problematic start at Celtic firmly behind him – but he has no intention of letting up because of his recent hot streak of form.

“Of course I’m delighted,” he said. “Everyone criticises a striker if he doesn’t score goals so it’s something which makes me happy whenever I score. It’s something that makes me really happy. 

“But for me it’s not the only thing I have to do on the field, it’s a part of my performance. But whenever I score and have a good performance then I feel my play is complete and it makes me even more happy. 

“As I said before, everyone is criticising a striker for his lack of goals. Goals are the fuel for a striker. It makes me pleased with my game and something I hope I can do in every single game in order to help the team.”

Postecoglou desperately needs his men to score goals in the second leg of their UEFA Conference League play-off against Bodo/Glimt in the far north of Norway on Thursday evening.

They trail 3-1 from the first leg and will be doing very well to get a result at the venue where Italian giants Roma were thrashed 6-1 in the group stages back in October.

But asked if he felt he could contribute even more goals, Giakoumakis said: “Of course I do. 

“That’s one of my targets this year is to score more goals. For me it doesn’t matter how I lost the first six months here. It is what it is and I cannot change it. 

“Of course, it didn’t make me happy, it was really difficult for me. But now I can say that I am back with the squad and ready for more chances and more success. And we will see.” 

Giakoumakis, who was the leading marksman in the Eredivisie last term despite VVV being relegated, has so far netted all seven of his Celtic goals from inside the opposition area.

He confessed that he is determined to improve his play outside of the box as the Premier Sports Cup winners bid to land the Scottish title and the Scottish Cup in the remaining weeks of the season.

“We will work harder every day and I will try to improve game by game,” he said.  

“I feel fit, I feel healthy. For me this is the most important thing. Of course I will always try to improve myself. 

“And I can never say that’s my limit because I never believe in limits. That’s why I work every day. 

“My main ability is to score with one touch. But I try to improve every single bit of lack of ability that I have. I always try to improve my touch and my dribbling.

“I try to score in every possible way because I am a striker and I can’t predict what situations will come in the game. I have to be ready for every possible situation.”

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