THE great Celtic goalkeeper guessing game continues to roll on.
The hunt for a successor for Joe Hart, who retired at the age of 37 after bringing down the curtain on a remarkable career in the Scottish Cup Final triumph on May 25, was put in motion before the end of the season.
We are now reaching that stage of the transfer window where some folk are becoming a trifle tetchy at the apparent lack of business being carried out at the champions.
As it stands, it looks as though Brendan Rodgers will be going into the Premiership opener against Kilmarnock on Flag Day at Parkhead on Sunday August 4 with a choice between Scott Bain or Scott Bain for the No.1 position.
Hart, after three successive title wins as well as two Scottish Cups and two League Cups in his three years in Glasgow, has gone and the odds are on Swiss back-up Benji Siegrist joining him through the exit.
FIST IN TIME…Joe Hart clears his lines on Celtic’s way to sealing a league and Cup double at Hampden on May 25 in the keeper’s last appearance for the club.
Ideally, the manager would prefer to have at least one new goalkeeper in place when he assembles his squad for the pre-season tour of the USA with the team due to fly out in 17 days time.
Two names have come to the fore in recent times – Kasper Schmeichel and Martin Dubravka.
There are obvious problems with both candidates.
The Dane, of course, worked with Rodgers at Leicester City before he moved to OGC Nice in August 2022 and then, a year later, to Anderlecht.
With his past association with the Celtic gaffer, Schmeichel was naturally linked with the Hoops last summer before heading for Belgium.
A year ago, CQN booted that conjecture into the long grass and you can check it out here.
Schmeichel is undoubtedly a formidable last line of defence, but, as they say rather wittily in football circles, his future is behind him.
The one-time Falkirk loanee will be 38 in November. He is five months older than Hart who thought this was the time to say a fond adieu to the beautiful game.
Currently out of contract after his one-year deal at the Brussels club expired, Schmeichel could prove to be a quick fix, but does Rodgers want to go through the same rigmarole next year as he searches yet again for a new No.1?
CUP THAT CHEERS…Kasper Schmeichel and Brendan Rodgers are smiles better after Leicester City’s English Cup Final 1-0 win over Chelsea at Wembley in May 2021.
Slovakian international Dubravka’s representatives have already held pre-Euro 24 talks with Celtic, it has been reported.
The 35-year-old custodian’s Newcastle United future is unclear after Eddie Howe brought in two new keepers – Nottingham Forest’s Odysseas Vlachodimos and Birmingham City’s John Ruddy. Mark Gillespie, another understudy, has just penned a 12-month extension.
When Nick Pope is fully fit, he will be the preferred option for the Tyneside boss.
Dubravka seems as confused as everyone else at the current state of play. Asked about his future at St James’s Park, he told the Daily Mail: “I have no idea.
“I have seen they are talking with other goalkeepers. I need to speak with the manager first. What is the plan for me? What is my future? I don’t know if they want me to stay or not.
“It is difficult for me, because I have been focused on my job with the national team.”
He doesn’t have to spend too much time concerning himself with Slovakia now after their elimination from Euro 24 by England.
There’s no argument that Dubravka possesses a presence. He is a big, powerful unit, but, to your humble scribe, I don’t think he is in Hart’s class.
To me, he is a shotstopper and not a technical last line of defence. As any self-respecting goalkeeper will inform you, there is a world of difference between the two.
Dubravka has the agility, alertness and courage to make saves, some of them in the spectacular category, but there is more to the role than producing Hollywood stops.
A BIG HAND…Martin Dubravka was Slovakia’s No.1 during the Euros in Germany.
He has a penchant for punching rather than catching the ball. There are occasions, of course, when a keeper has to use his fists, but there are other times when the ball is there to be caught.
Reliance on merely getting a glove to a crossball means there is no respite for the defenders. The ball could be returned in a heartbeat and danger continues to beckon.
Look at England’s winning goal the other night. I’m certainly not blaming Dubravka for his nation’s demise, but could he have done better when he came into traffic after Cole Palmer had swung in a right-wing set-play?
The keeper fisted the cross away and, only moments later, the ball was in the net. The threat wasn’t dealt with, the ball came back in, was headed across goal and Harry Kane did what Harry Kane does best and ghosted into a position to nod in from practically under the crossbar.
Out of position, a helpless Dubravka could only scramble into his net in a futile attempt to prevent the effort that ushered his country into Euro oblivion.
As much as I reckon Jordan Pickford is a suitable candidate for the laughing academy, the England No.1 does actually catch the ball on a number of occasions.
There are times when he wouldn’t be blamed for punching away, but he elects to hold on and his defenders are offered a breather.
So, Dubravka may prove to be the answer to Celtic’s No.1 problem, but he is a flawed keeper. Possibly that’s why Howe views him as surplus to requirements at Newcastle.
He is also into the last 12 months of his contract and will realise his future is not on Tyneside.
Dubravka could be worth the risk, but Stevie Woods may have to put in some extra shifts at Lennoxtown in an effort to iron out some of the characteristics that prevent the keeper from moving up in class.
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