CELTIC will be able to rely on Joe Cool in the heat of the derby in the High Noon showdown at Ibrox on Sunday.
Former Hoops and Northern Ireland international No.1 Allan McKnight is convinced 75 times-capped England keeper Joe Hart will be a calming influence for his team-mates in an encounter which will go a long way to the destination of this season’s title.
The 34-year-old netminder arrived at Parkhead on a three-year contract in the summer as Ange Postecoglou sought to find a solution to the position that caused problems in the previous campaign.
Neither Vasilis Barkas, bought for a club record for a last line of defence at £4.5million from AEK Athens in August 2020, nor Scott Bain convinced in the club’s first trophyless campaign in 11 years.
ROARING SUCCESS…Joe Hart with the newly-won Premier Sports League Cup in December.
The Greek was dumped by Postecoglou after gifting FC Midtjylland an equaliser in the 1-1 draw in the Champions League qualifier at Parkhead.
Bain replaced him for the return in Denmark – a 2-1 extra-time loss – and kept his place for the 2-1 defeat against Hearts at Tynecastle in the opening Premiership game of the 2021/22 season.
Hart arrived in a £1million switch, made his debut 24 hours later in the 4-2 win over FK Jablonec in the Czech Republic and has been first choice ever since with Barkas and Bain only stepping in when the one-time Manchester City star is rested.
McKnight, who won a centenary League and Cup double in 1988 during his two-year stint in Glasgow, is a confirmed fan of the Englishman and recalls the day almost a decade ago when Sergio Aguero fired in a memorable last-gasp winner against Queens Park Rangers to win the top-flight championship at the Etihad.
UP IN ARMS…Allen McKnight and Joe Miller celebrate Celtic’s 2-1 Scottish Cup Final win over Dundee United in the club’s centenary year.
Hart played his part in City’s flag success that year and the former Hoops shotstopper, now 58, admitted: “I would think Joe is looking forward to every game and looking to have a challenge in every game. He’ll want teams coming onto Celtic and being there to help.
“When you have played in the English Premier League and you manage to win it, I don’t think there are many higher hurdles to jump.
“When you don’t just win an English Premier League, but win one in that fashion, you would be able to handle just about anything.
“It’s not disrespectful to the Scottish Premiership and I’m sure he is loving being part of a huge club and being in there fighting for medals, but I’m sure Joe is finding it within his grasp.
“Having been through some of those experiences, it’s maybe even a walk in the park.”
Hart has kept 16 clean sheets in 28 Premiership outings is disproving the theory he was way past his best.
HART STOPPER…the Celtic keeper makes a point-blank save from Ross County forward Regan Charles-Cook.
After leaving City for loan spells at Torino and West Ham, he had a term at Burnley before moving onto Spurs where he rarely figured.
McKnight, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “I’m glad he’s doing well at Celtic. Pep Guardiola put a finger on him. And because of Guardiola’s success, everyone then condemned Joe.
“But it was about footballing ability. That’s part and parcel of today’s game, but you do have to be a goalkeeper first and foremost and a footballer afterwards.
“Guardiola wanted it the other way around and he found a unique piece of kit in the one they have now, Ederson.
“Joe had to be calm. And he took himself through the rocky period.
“If he can impose that on other players, then fantastic.
“Everyone hits bad days and some people said he was finished, but I’m sure he never thought that and to get back into top football is not easy.
“But he obviously had the mindset for it and the only way to do that is to be that calm and even-headed type.”