Mizuno will miss 'Iron Man' Nakamura

Last updated : 13 January 2009 By Mikbhoy
Four days after a scan confirmed he had an abductor muscle injury Shunsuke Nakamura surprised the coaching staff when he declared himself fit and ready to face Dundee in the weekend Homecoming Scottish Cup game which the Celts won 2-1.

Naka played the full 90 minutes in the most dreadful conditions and after a couple of days rest he'll be ready for Aberdeen next week. "As the doctor says, remember we are dealing here with Nakamura." said Strachan before the Dundee game "We thought we might not see him until next week but he has been training for two days. He has attuned his body that well, there is a flexibility and an elasticity about his body which not many other people have."

The typically unselfish Nakamura is always willing to go that little bit further for the cause of club and country "Celtic are fighting for the title, so I can't rest." he said "My groin injury is not too painful." And in the midst of Celtics heavy schedule he has to journey to Yokohama for the World Cup Qualifier against team-mate Scott McDonald's Australia "It's exhausting to think about all the games for Celtic coming up before that. I'm only human and it's tough." said Naka "I'm trying not to think about it. When you reach 30 you often get pain in the knees and ligaments. It's better to go to Japan with a positive attitude. It takes up a lot of energy, but I want to play. It would be better to have a week in Japan to prepare, but there's nothing I can do about it."

With a Glasgow Derby four days after the Asian Group 1 clash between Japan and Australia Celtic boss Gordon Strachan will hope and pray that two of his key men will emerge unscathed from what promises to be a feisty affair. Australia currently lead the group two points ahead of the second placed Japanese.

Koki Mizuno hopes that he'll face a similarly punishing schedule in the future but he's been pleased with his progress over the last twelve months ""It was my first time abroad and everything was quite hard," he said. "I always wanted to do my best at this club. I'm now used to the environment and cold weather. I live in Glasgow city centre and like it here."

He might find it a bit lonely if, as expected, Shunsuke returns to his homeland in the summer. Naka has been his friend and mentor since the 23 year-old arrived in the city from JEF United and in fact Koki lodged at the home of his compatriot until finding a place of his own in the same complex. "Shunsuke helped me quite a lot, off the pitch and on it," Mizuno said. "If he goes then I'll miss him. He's the only person I can speak Japanese with, but I'll do my best. I tried to learn English using a game on my Nintendo but it has not improved."

The pair made the front pages of all the Japanese newspapers following Mizuno's first start for the club against Falkirk and a goal marked 'made in Japan' when he latched onto a through ball from Nakamura to score what he later described as his dream goal.

Mizuno's display was such that he kept his place in the team for the Glasgow derby at Ibrox the following week. "I couldn't get involved in the match but at the end of the year I managed to play a few games, which was really good, but overall 2008 was so hard." said Koki "I now know I need to contribute more. I had watched some Old Firm games before but it was still more physical and quicker than I imagined. Overall I am satisfied with progress. This year I'd like to get more games and build from there."