TOMOKI IWATA admits it was something of a culture shock when boos erupted from the away end at Fir Park when his number was raised by the fourth official to signal his removal from proceedings as his side chased a winner against Motherwell last weekend.

The Japanese midfielder was unsure how to react to the reception, but he soon came to realise it was the Celtic supporters’ way of demonstrating their appreciation of his recent form for the club.

After recovering from a lingering ankle injury, and with his countryman Reo Hatate still some weeks out from returning from his own spell on the sidelines, the 26-year-old has worked his way into a highly competitive central berth along with club captain Callum McGregor and Matt O’Riley.

And with impressive showings in the 3-1 victory over Motherwell and 7-1 win against Dundee in the last seven days, he will be looking to help his side collect a further three points as they hunt down Rangers for top spot in the Premiership when they take on Hearts at Tynecastle this afternoon.

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“Now I start to be featuring in the games, I’m really happy about it and now I can look to contribute more towards the team winning,” Iwata said.

“Before that I was obviously frustrated no being involved in the team because of the injuries or different situations but then also I was hoping that soon I would get the opportunities so, yeah, it was a difficult moment but now I’m happy.”

On the crowd’s reaction to his substitution against Motherwell, he added: “At the beginning I was confused, like, ‘Is it toward me?’ or what? But then I think it was, in a way, a compliment and I take it very well. So I just want to meet the expectations now.

“It will definitely be a difficult game [against Hearts], but if we just follow our game plan and we perform well and individually – every player can play better than Wednesday, even – then the possibility to win the game against Hearts at Tynecastle will be even higher, so we just need to do our best.”