I ACCEPT that I am in no position to offer advice to a goalkeeper who has won 75 caps for his country and won a landslide of silverware on both sides of the border.
I acknowledge that my own career as a shotstopper scaled the dizzying heights of mediocrity. My greatest claim to fame was playing for the Glasgow Under-15 Schoolboys around the same time fire was being invented.
I trained with Queen’s Park twice a week and played one reserve game for Motherwell against Hearts at Tynecastle. We won 3-1, so I am probably the only Fir Park performer in history with a 100 per cent record.
WINNER…Joe Hart celebrates after the League Cup Final triumph in February.
Of course, my burning ambition was to play for Celtic, but I had to admit early in my netminding days that the chances of a summons from Big Jock were neatly sandwiched between zilch and zero.
The game I will always be remembered for in my schooldays was a Cup Final against St Mungo’s Academy at Roseberry Park where we were leading 1-0 with about 15 minutes to go and I contrived to throw two into the net. It has gone down in St Margaret Mary’s fabled history as the worst performance by anyone at any level of football since the dawn of time.
In the aftermath of my humiliating mishap, my family disowned me, including Prince, my hitherto faithful mutt. Even worse, my girfriend dumped me and took up with the wee outside-right who was as ugly as sin, but had performed quite well in “The Roseberry Park Debacle”, as it is still labelled throughout the great sprawling housing scheme of Castlemilk on the south side of Glasgow where I grew up.
I was informed I was in the running for the St Mungo Academy Player of the Year award.
My street cred as a 14 year old was so bad kids in prams used to throw rattles at me when I was in the vicinity. Some of the language that greeted me when I was out walking was ripe, to say the least. I didn’t know old grannies knew such words or expressions. One persistent critic was my elderly next-door neighbour. Cats hissed at me.
So, I repeat: Who am I to offer goalkeeping advice to the great Joe Hart?
GET READY…Joe Hart is fairly central as James Tavernier steps up to the free-kick.
GOING…Tavernier’s effort flies over the wall with Hart set to react.
GOING…the ball zooms to Hart’s right.
GONE…the Celtic keeper is beaten as the ball hits off the underside of the bar and drops behind him.
It’s a bit like a backstreet brawler telling Muhammad Ali how to box, a middle-aged jogger pointing out to Usain Bolt where he is going wrong or someone in water-wings giving swimming tips to Jaws.
Okay, I take all that on board, but there was something I noted in the 3-2 win over Michael Beale’s side earlier this month that alarmed me somewhat.
I’m talking about the Celtic keeper’s positioning at James Tavernier’s free-kick goal.
Joe took up a position close to the centre of his goal which looked as though he was covering both eventualities of right-footed Tavernier or left-footed Borna Barisic taking the award which was fairly central.
There was no doubt in my mind who was going to take the kick – it was always going to be Tavernier. Barisic, who has been known to produce a killer left-foot finish, was simply a decoy.
It doesn’t matter how many of the opposition mill around the ball in the prelude to these kicks, you will find the guy who has the last touch of the ball to move it into position is the player who will take the kick.
I reckon about 99 out of a 100 of free-kicks in this position are executed by the player who had that final touch. Forget the other 10 of the opposition trying to pull the wool.
Tavernier moved the ball with his hand in the build-up to the kick being taken. That convinced me he would be the kicker.
OOPS…Joe Hart watches the ball clatter off the woodwork and ricochet over the line.
From where the ball was situated, it would have to be a right-foot effort that would swing up to Joe’s right. To place it to the keeper’s left would have forced the Ibrox captain to come at the ball from an entirely different angle.
I can only believe Joe was too busy organising his defensive wall to notice Tavernier’s positioning of the ball otherwise he would have taken another step to his right. If he had done so, he would have allowed himself the opportunity to get to the effort when it zeroed in on its target.
The ball did not go into the net right in at the corner. In fact, there was probably a couple of feet between the ball and the post.
So, I was a little surprised that Joe had elected to take up the stance he did when he prepared for the kick.
Watch today for something similar. With the possibility of Alfredo Morelos, Fashion Sakala, Ryan Kent and Malik Tillman in their ranks, the visitors possess performers who do not have to be invited twice to hit the deck.
Beale’s men will look for deadballs around the area outside the box as this will be seen as one of their most likely routes to scoring at Hampden.
So, Joe, remember my wise words of wisdom, please.
I followed that rule of thumb throughout my ‘career’. Mind you, the free-kicks still hit the net behind me with monotonous regularity, but that’s another story for another day.
Enjoy the game today, folks.
I’ll be back on Saturday June 3 with more helpful tips on how to win the Scottish Cup.
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report and best action images from Celtic v Rangers this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.