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RIVAL BOSS HAILS ‘CLASS ACT’ HAZARD

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CELTIC keeper Conor Hazard has been hailed as a “class act” by Dundee boss James McPake.

The 22-year-old shotstopper, who is in line to play against Hearts in the delayed Scottish Cup Final at Hampden on Sunday, made his Hoops debut in the 3-2 Europa League win over Lille last week.

And the 6ft 4in Northern Ireland international netminder kept the No.1 position to register a clean sheet – only the second in the team’s last 14 games – in the two-goal victory over Kilmarnock at the weekend.

Now Hazard is on the brink of a bumper new contract at Parkhead, as CQN reported yesterday, as well as being handed the opportunity to lift his first medal in football if he gets the nod from Neil Lennon to start ahead of £4.5million Vasilis Barkas and Scott Bain.

And Dens Park gaffer McPake has back the rookie keeper to go all the way to the top after watching him in action following his two loan spells with the Tayside outfit.

Hazard answered the club’s SOS to step in during Jack Hamilton’s absence due to appendicitis and he returned for a second period in January. The Championship side were close to bringing him back for a third time this summer only for the champions to veto the proposed move at the last minute.

Dens chief McPake, speaking to the Courier, said: “I’m delighted for Conor to see him playing for Celtic at the minute.

“Hopefully, he can stay in the team. I’m in no position to tell Neil Lennon how to pick a team and wouldn’t dream of it, but, on a personal note, I’d love to see Conor play in the Cup Final.

“I think he’s been excellent in the two games he’s played, but I’m not surprised at that. We saw his quality here.

“Conor is also a really humble, nice guy. He really enjoyed his two loan spells, enjoyed working with Bobby Geddes and he helped us.

“He kept five clean sheets in his last five games, only conceding once in his second spell here before lockdown.

“He brought a lot to our squad, so we tried and we thought we were getting him back. Unfortunately, Celtic had other ideas at the very end and you can now see why.”

McPake added: “He’s a great guy and he picked the phone up after making his first start for Celtic. He’d played in Europe, but he picked up the phone and thanked myself, Bobby and all the staff here at Dundee for everything we did for him.

“That’s a class act from a classy person.

“As a club, we are proud to see him doing well and that we played even a tiny part in helping him. It is a tiny part because it’s Conor Hazard who has got into that position through his hard work and dedication.

“Hopefully, he can stay in and go on to make a real name for himself.”

 
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