CHRIS SUTTON admits he still has concerns over Celtic’s “nightmare position”.

The former Hoops striker has examined Ange Postecoglou’s squad with eleven crucial games – including the Premier Sports League Cup semi-final against St Johnstone a week today and two vitally important Europa League Group G encounters against Bayer Leverkusen and Real Betis – still to be played before the turn of the year.

And 2022 will kick off with a meeting with the Ibrox side, minus Steven Gerrard, in the east end of Glasgow on January 2 before there is a break in the action.

Twelve new faces were brought in during a whirlwind of transfer activity in the summer while players such Odsonne Edouard, Kristoffer Ajer, Ryan Christie and Olivier Ntcham headed through the Parkhead exit.

TWO OF A KIND…Fraser Forster and Joe Hart go through their paces during an England international training session.

The No.1 spot was one of the positions that created mayhem last season in the wretched campaign that saw Neil Lennon lose his job in February as the quest for the historic tenth successive title hit the rocks in the club’s first trophyless terms in 12 years.

Vasilis Barkas arrived in a £4.5million switch from AEK Athens when Fraser Forster made it clear he would be seeing out his last 12 months of his contract at Southampton.

The Greek international keeper failed to impress and will be on his way in the January transfer window, either on a permanent or temporary transfer.


NOW YOU SEE ME…Vasilis Barkas in action in the 1-1 Champions League qualifier against FC Midtjylland in July – his only competitive appearance for Celtic during the Ange Postecoglou reign.

Scott Bain and Conor Hazard were both brought in for spasmodic appearances as the backline looked jittery and nervy without a solid presence in goal.

Joe Hart arrived in a £1million deal from Spurs at the start of August and has now played 22 successive games and the 34-year-old former England netminder who made 75 appearances for his country has provided an important part of the Postecoglou jigsaw.

However, Sutton is still worried if the shotstopper is crocked and has to sit out a period of important matches.

The Celtic striking great said: “I do realise it would be a nightmare if Joe Hart was missing for games. There is not adequate cover there for someone who has really impressed.

“Hart lost his way for a bit, no doubt. But fair play to him. I liked what I heard when he was signing about not thinking twice and wanting to play. I liked that fact.

HE FLIES THROUGH THE AIR…Joe Hart makes a diving save against Bayer Leverkusen.

“He didn’t want to sit down on a Saturday picking up a big wage doing nothing like some of the fat cats in England do. Get a sack load of cash playing Under-23 games.

“He wanted to come and test himself in a nightmare position. And that’s what being Celtic goalkeeper is. A nightmare.

“You go through long periods doing nothing and then have a save to make. If you don’t and a goal goes in, you get berated.

“Fraser Forster raised the bar, but Joe has gone in and looked so assured.

“Celtic fans view him with a confidence that he is not going to do anything too daft. There will be the odd mistake, but that’s just a product of how Celtic play under the manager.”

POINTING THE WAY AHEAD…James McCarthy in action against Real Betis in September.

Sutton is also looking for James McCarthy, who arrived at the end of his contract at Crystal Palace and who celebrated his 31st birthday on Thursday, to step up in the forthcoming months – especially if Callum McGregor and David Turnbull sustain a knock or two.

The one-time England international forward, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “What must be a disappointment for the boss at this stage is the fact that McCarthy hasn’t yet, for whatever reason, got up to full speed.

“We know he had problems in terms of availability before he signed and he is one signing that needs to do better.

SUCCESS…Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates his strike against Hibs last month – one of his 13 goals this season.

“McCarthy can still salvage it. He’s only just in the door. But playing three games on the spin and staying fit would help. He hasn’t looked mobile when he’s come on and he’ll know it himself.

“Celtic signed him on a long-term deal with a big reputation. A boyhood fan. We know what it means to him to play for Celtic, but he needs to show it and this could become a really important period for him if anything happens to McGregor or Turnbull.”

Sutton added: “We all know Postecoglou will go back into the transfer pot and I think he’ll return to the Japanese market given the success of Kyogo.

“Midfield is clearly the area where they are short and Celtic cannot stand still. They have to strengthen in there as, while it’s been a good start, they can’t rest on laurels.”

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