BRENDAN RODGERS has given veteran keeper Joe Hart a massive vote of confidence – for the time being.
The returning Celtic manager has been assessing the squad of players he inherited from Ange Postecoglou to compile the strongest group for the rigours that lie ahead.
Portuguese maverick Filipe Jota has already quit the treble winners for a money-spinning move to Saudi Arabia and Australia World Cup midfielder Aaron Mooy has called time on his playing career with his 33rd birthday approaching in September while he still had a year to run on his contract.
WE’RE BEHIND YOU…Celtic fans’ favourite Joe Hart gets the backing of the support during the 3-1 Scottish Cup Final win over Inverness Caley Thistle last month.
Changes will be forced on the Irishman, but one position which is not causing concern at the moment is the No.1 slot.
Hart has been first pick since his cut-price £1million arrival from Spurs in August 2021 and the 36-year-old 75 rimes-capped England international netminder has set his own agenda among his Hoops glove rivals.
The former Manchester City star is leading the pecking order ahead of Swiss shotstopper Benji Siegrist, who joined the club last summer after quitting Dundee United, and Scott Bain, who was signed by Rodgers, first on loan and then a permanent deal in June 2018.
Northern Ireland cap Conor Hazard has just left the club after nine years at Parkhead for Plymouth Argyle which may prompt the gaffer to promote 20-year-old London-born Tobi Oliwayemi, who spent the second half of last term at Cork City.
However, Rodgers has no fear about the qualities of Hart and he said: “It’s for me to assess everything at the moment, but I’ve always liked Joe.
BEST FOOT FORWARD…Joe Hart launches the ball into the Celtic support after the League Cup Final win over Ibrox opposition at Hampden in February.
“He’s 36, but he trains so hard every day and he’s a great influence around this changing room.
“That will be really important and you can never underestimate that. As a player, he is undervalued in terms of what he can do with his feet.”
Rodgers, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “I don’t need him to be Ederson at Manchester City – I just need him to keep the ball out of the net. Then when the ball comes back to him I just need him to play simple.
“From what I have seen so far, and from Celtic games in the past, I think he can do that.
“That question maybe applies for later on, but, as I see Joe now, he’s been fantastic for Celtic and a great influence.
“I will assess it over time.”