JOE HART reveals he “loves” true grit Cameron Carter-Vickers who fought through the pain barrier to make sure Celtic won through to the Scottish Cup Final.
The USA World Cup centre-back’s season finished as soon as referee Don Robertson blew for time-up at the conclusion of the tense 1-0 triumph over Michael Beale’s Ibrox outfit at Hampden yesterday.
Filipe Jota nodded in the matchwinner shortly before the interval to set up an appearance in the soccer showpiece against Inverness Caley Thistle at the national stadium on Saturday June 3 with a coveted treble on the line.
FIST IN TIME…Joe Hart punches the ball to safety with a little help from Cameron Carter-Vickers as Alfredo Morelos and Connor Goldson search for the equaliser. Daizen Maeda looks on.
However, the nearest Carter-Vickers will get to the pitch that afternoon will be a place in the stand as he now awaits surgery on a knee problem.
The rugged, no-nonsense defender has been carrying the injry for some considerable time although he insisted on pushing himself to his utmost limits in aid of the Hoops and their bid for a domestic clean sweep after last term’s near miss.
Experienced keeper Hart, who dealt with everything that was thrown at him in the semi-final, said: “What an exceptional player. Whatever happens in the future happens, but what a top player.
“What a top professional. I love him. He deserves to be pain free. You do want him back as quickly as possible, but he’s a not just a great centre-half, he’s a person who’s been gritting his teeth and sticking his boots on for us.
“As a team and club, we appreciate that. We’ve known for a while and had to keep this under wraps. Cam has been exceptional for us this season and whenever he’s ready, he’s ready.
“But Yuki (Kobayashi) and (Stephen) Welshy will be ready to fill his shoes.”
RISE AND SHINE…Joe Hart collects a high ball under pressure from Scott Arfield.
Reflecting on the action at Hampden, Hart, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “It was a tough game.
“I thought we played better in the first-half than the second, but we showed that we’ve got a couple of sides to us character-wise. And we did what we needed to do.
“The boys in front of me put in some performance. They’ve been good at that. We obviously wanted it to be a little simpler and to keep playing our football, but it’s not always as easy as that.
“We were up against opposition who made it tough, but we managed to get the job done. We work hard every day. The manager goes on about it and he’s right. We don’t take our foot off the gas at any moment.
“We’re not perfect, even though we are striving for it. There are going to be moments in games and there have been in all games this season, even when we’ve had a breathtaking first-half, where we’ve had to show a side to our football.
“We did that again. It’s something that you can’t take for granted. We’re not a team that’s always going to have the answers, but we are always going to go down swinging.
“We are always going to put it on the line. The fact we’ve got the attitude to try and do that has stood us in good stead.
“We don’t take any of this for granted. We are going to keep working hard. On Tuesday we’ll be looking to get our heads down and work hard to build for the rest of the season.”
YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE…Joe Hart backed by the Celtic fans at Hampden.
The champions can clinch their second successive championship with a win over Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday and Hart, capped 75 times by England, commented: “You can’t have a week off when you are at Celtic. We just stay in the present.
“We’ve an amazing head coach, great back-up staff and side and a support which won’t let us relax. We don’t want to let up. We are living in this moment and trying to get the most out of every opportunity that’s in front of us.
”It’s game by game. I can only speak for myself, but there aren’t that many I’m going to be playing in.
“I’m not in the middle of my career. I’m not at the start. I’m coming towards the end. I want more. I want everything. I love the fact that I’m still involved.”
Talk of the club’s eighth treble is still under wraps, but Hart added: “I’d love to have that conversation with you. But right now there are way too many important games ahead of us. We’ll see. I hope we can have this conversation after the Cup Final.
“It’s amazing. What an atmosphere there was out there. It was the same last year. A 50/50 split, two top fan bases rooting for their team. It’s so tight. There is so much tension in these games.
“One mistake or a slip can swing how it turns out. It’s amazing to play in and I’ve been lucky to play in a lot of big atmospheres and I do not take that for granted.
“I love playing under that pressure.”