JOHN HARTSON has leapt to the defence of Joe Hart as criticism mounts on the Celtic keeper – after just one competitive game of the season!

The 36-year-old 75 times-capped former England international No.1 hesitated for moment early in the Premiership opener against Ross County after a sloppy and careless passback from Anthony Ralston.

It almost cost a goal or a penalty-kick, but Hart and the Hoops survived the scare and took the lead in the 17th minute through David Turnbull only three minutes later.

TROUBLE IN THE AIR…Joe Hart flaps at Jordan White’s header that claimed Ross County’s first goal in Celtic’s 4-2 opening-day win at Parkhead.

And the netminder didn’t cover himself in glory as he flapped at a left-wing corner-kick which saw Joran White pull one back with a floating header to the back post which ricocheted into the net off the woodwork to make the scoreline 3-1.

The lapses provided ammunition for the critics of the experienced custodian, a £1million bargain buy from Spurs in August 2021, while the treble winners have been linked with Croatia’s World Cup penalty kick-saving hero Dominik Livakovic who will be leaving Dinamo Zagreb before the end of the transfer deadline at midnight on August 31.

However, one-time Hoops goal hero Hartson has warned about the dangers of being too quick to dispense with the services of the last line of defence who has answered some big calls since his arrival at the club.

The Welsh international striking legend said: “Joe Hart is not brilliant with his feet. Joe is okay. Last season, I think Joe took a few risks in tight scenarios.

“He is a brilliant shotstopper. We are digging him out for a couple of little mistakes he makes, but on Saturday the ball was played over the top several times and he was on his toes, his reactions were brilliant, straight out to clear the ball.

“We know where his frailties are and that is with his feet, so sometimes you need to tell him to play a different way.”

WE’RE BEHIND YOU…Joe Hart has the backing of the Celtic support as he plays his part in the 3-1 Scottish Cup Final triumph over Inverness Caley Thistle on June 3 that sealed the club’s world record eighth treble.

Hartson, speaking to Go Radio, added: “We’ll really miss Joe Hart if he is was to go away, or if he’s to be dropped, or if he is left out the team.

“He’s got all the experience in the world, still looks very fit and can still make good saves.

“Yes, he’s had a couple little mistakes here and there, but tell me a goalkeeper who hasn’t.”

Hart is likely to get the nod of approval from boss Brendan Rodgers when the champions visit Pittodrie to take on Aberdeen in Sunday’s midday confrontation.

The veteran keeper faced the Dons four times last season and had an impeccable record of four successive shut-outs.


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