CELTIC’S goalkeeping talent-spotters don’t have a particularly good track record in recent years.

If you were rating the efforts of these headhunters between one and ten they would be doing well to get zero.

Who gave the green light for the Hoops hierarchy to spend £4.5million on Vasilis Barkas from AEK Athens in the desperate summer recruitment drive of 2020?

I’ve been told the name of one individual who gave the nod to the purchase of the most expensive shotstopper in the history of the club, but, out of the goodness of my heart, his identity shall remain a secret for the time being.

I took one glance at Barkas and wondered if something had got lost in the translation and Celtic had signed an accountant with gloves instead of a good old-fashioned imposing netminder.

REPEAT OFFENDER…Vasilis Barkas in typical pose as the ball heads for the net.

From day one, this bloke looked as though he was in the wrong movie. I estimated he cost the club £187,500 per game after a mere 24 appearances before his lucrative contract was scrapped with 12 months to go.

Ange Postecoglou took one look at this overpriced dud and jettisoned him before restoring Scott Bain to the No.1 position while sending out an SOS which, mercifully, was answered by Joe Hart, at that stage twiddling his thumbs in the twilight zone of the Spurs back-up brigade.

After three exceptional, dependable and consistent crusades, the 75-times capped England international custodian has announced his retirement at the age of 37 and will have his last hurrah as a Celt on the iconic date of May 25 in the Scottish Cup Final against Philippe Clement’s Ibrox outfit at Hampden. Seems an altogether fitting setting for a gorious goodbye for a likeable chap.

His departure, of course, has sent the guessing game for his replacement into overdrive and all sorts of names are flying around with reckless and wayward abandonment.

I note that Asmir Begovic has been mentioned. Is this the same Asmir Begovic who will celebrate his 37th birthday on the 20th of next month – the same age at which Hart believes is a reasonable time to call it quits?

ON THE MOVE…dependable keeper Joe Hart will end his three-year association with Celtic following the Scottish Cup Final on May 25. 

The Bosnian international, who can number Chelsea, Stoke City, Bournemouth and Everton among his former clubs, saw his one-year contract at Queens Park Rangers expire four days ago and he will cost exactly £4.5million less than Barkas if anyone at the champions fancies offering him a deal, presumably not a long-term one.

Another last line of defence who has come into focus as a potential successor to Hart is Liam Kelly who will join Begovic among the unemployed when his contract at Motherwell expires next month.

No disrespect to the 28-year-old Scotland squad keeper – who will be well known to Stevie Woods in his capacity as goalkeeping coaching guru at international level – but he is not Celtic class. Nowhere near it.

Exchanging Kelly for Hart would be like trading in a Roller for a clapped-out Ford Fiesta.

A bit harsh on the Fir Park man, but he will never reach the class of the departing Englishman. Celtic have to get this decision spot on – or suffer the consequences.

There is absolutely no point in having a striker who can guarantee you a hat-trick in every game when the bloke at the back can throw four over his shoulder at the same time.

SWISS MISS…Benji Siegrist will be on the move in summer.

I thought Benji Siegrist would be worth a punt, but it looks as though Cupid’s arrow has struck the towering Swiss custodian and he will be performing elsewhere in the new season.

At 32, Bain accepts his role as a stand-by, so it’s imperative Brendan Rodgers has a Hart replacement in situ as soon as possible.

To the tired old eyes of your humble scribe, I have to say 23-year-old Will Dennis, on loan at Kilmarnock this term, has looked the best of the performers in the Premiership outside Hart and Jack Butland.

I was more than interested to see his contract at parent club Bournemouth was running down, but someone on the south coast must have taken notice of his displays across the border and stuck a new two-year deal under his nose in January.

So, the merry-go-round of guesswork will continue to spin as successors to the throne are fired out hither and yon.

A massive percentage will, of course, be conjecture. Agents will be working overtime to make sure their clients’ names are to the forefront to hopefully trigger interest from a possible suitor.

If Celtic are serious about locking their back door for years to come they have to learn from the Barkas experience. They MUST be sure what they are buying and they are getting value for their buck.

So, please, enough of the Begovic bunkum and the Kelly claptrap.

We need to get our serious heads on in search for a hero.


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