HAVING tasted disappointment in the 2020/21 Premiership campaign, Celtic have come back with a bang under their new gaffer, and former Australian manager, Ange Postecoglou.
As we head through April as the 2021/22 season draws to a close, The Hoops find themselves six points clear at the top of the table and can also boast a plus 52 goal difference as recognition of how dominant they have again been this year.
Postecoglou has definitely stamped his own mark on the side, and the team has certainly seen plenty of changes following his arrival over the summer. One of those changes to the starting XI was the somewhat risky signing of former England and Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart which many thought was a roll of the dice at a casino move.
HAMPDEN HERO…Joe Hart salutes the Celtic support after playing a key role in the 2-1 Premier Sports League Cup triumph over Hibs at the national stadium six days before Christmas.
The 34-year-old netminder suffered a major loss of form a few seasons ago after Pep Guardiola quickly decided he wasn’t the goalkeeper he needed and the two-time Premier League title winner and four-time Golden Glove recipient quickly lost his City and England place, spending time out on loan with Torino and West Ham United, before making the switch to Burnley and then Tottenham Hotspur.
Two seasons at Burnley returned only 24 appearances, and his year at White Hart Lane saw him notch up ten appearances.
It was a brave decision by Celtic to bring him in after the few years he has had, but the faith shown in him by the club and Postecoglou has been more than repaid with the performances the former Shrewsbury Town academy graduate has turned in during his 47 starting appearances so far.
It’s not just his clean sheet record that has aided Celtic’s return to the top though, as impressive at it might be, as going into the Rangers clash he was conceding a goal every 168 minutes which almost tallies up to Craig Gordon’s record in Celtic’s best treble-winning season of 2016/17.
THOU SHALT NOT PASS…the ever-alert Joe Hart guards the Celtic goal.
With plenty of games left to play in 2021/22, Hart is only three more shut-outs short of Gordon’s record from that year and, just as importantly, Hart only needs two more to match, and three to beat, his own personal career best despite his previous success at The Etihad Stadium.
What the former England man has also provided upon his return to form is a massive amount of leadership and understanding of the game. Crucially, that penalty box leadership and savvy helped the side through the early days as Postecoglou settled in, other signings bedded in and a real team spirit started to foster and grow.
But the success of his capture and the season so far, all loops back to that first moment when discussions were opened over the summer and Hart finally felt wanted and needed again.
He felt that feeling of knowing someone had faith in him, and in return, he got that spark of some self belief back with the promise that he could again be a major player and a major part of Postecoglou’s plans moving forward, and not simply a back up option for cover or depth or maybe even, just simply, some PR.
It’s not just a credit to Celtic’s judgement here, it’s a credit to Hart’s own desire to once again rise to the top and forge out his own future.