JOE HART has proved he is a “special character” to come back from the misery of Burnley and Spurs where it looked as though his career was in freefall.

The 75 times-capped England international keeper was written off by so many critics – including the London club’s short-lived manager Nuno Espirito Santo who told him brutally he would never play in his first team.

Hart, though, has emerged from the wreckage to prove he is a winner at Celtic following his £1million switch in August to solve the Hoops’ No.1 problem that had haunted the team throughout a wretched previous campaign in which Vasilis Barkas proved to be a £4.5million misfit and Scott Bain and Conor Hazard failed to convince on a consistent basis.

CELTIC CONNECTION…former Hoops keeper Fraser Forster and current No.1 Joe Hart during an England international training session.

The 34-year-old netminder is preparing to face Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden on Sunday in his quest to add to his impressive silverware haul of five major honours amassed during his 12 years at Manchester City.

Hart has played a significant role in Ange Postecoglou’s team’s surge to the Premiership pinnacle where they lead by six points with only five games to play and the shotstopper picked up his first medal in Scotland in the 2-1 Premier Sports League Cup success over Hibs six days before Christmas.

Former Manchester City and England team-mate Trevor Sinclair has seen the model pro come through the ranks, take the knocks and provide all the answers.

The one-time winger, a lifelong Celtic fan, said: “Listen, that pathway from Shrewsbury to Manchester City as a young man, you don’t do that at 19 if you’re not a special character and talent.

SILVERWARE SUCCESS…Joe Hart roars with joy after the Premier Sports League Cup triumph over Hibs at Hampden in December.

“He’s proved he is that. One of the most pleasing things is he’s had his difficult spell – and we all have them in life or a career – and bounced back really well to show what he’s made of.

“Joe’s got massive character on the pitch. He’s got all that experience and he’s leaning on it to produce his best again for Celtic.

“I played alongside Joe when he was a young man at City, watched him progress and become England’s No.1.

“Now I’ve watched him play for my club, Celtic, and I’m dead proud of his achievements.”

Sinclair was concerned his pal’s career was nosediving towards obscurity after he made only 19 appearances – mainly in Cup competitions – for the Turf Moor and London clubs in three years.

The ex-international forward, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “You’ve got to go and prove yourself again.

“And I wasn’t sure that Joe had that fight. It looked like he was struggling a little bit.

FANS’ FAVOURITE…Joe Hart has solved Celtic’s No.1 problem.

“He’s a wealthy boy. And sometimes when you have the wealth Joe’s got, you can lack that hunger to want to prove yourself again – every season, every game, every week, every month.

“Whether it’s training, games, different clubs, that’s what it’s all about.

“I wasn’t sure if, because he was so comfortable, that he might just fade away.

“He’s proved to me the personality that I thought he had is still there, shown his true colours with Celtic and come back flying.”

Sinclair, now a media pundit, was at Parkhead on February 3 to witness the Hoops’ 3-0 destruction of the Govan visitors after being given tickets by the keeper.

IT TAKES TWO…Joe Hart and goalkeeping coach Stevie Woods in discussion after the 2-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle in January.

He added: “It was the perfect fit. I’m really pleased for Joe and I’ve said that to him.

“I think when you’ve had a dip in form, had people criticise you and ask different questions of your character and personality, this was the ideal move.

“He’s not looked out of place. He’s at a huge club and even for someone who’s had the career Joe has had, he’s had big gloves to fill at Celtic.

“But he’s filled them very well. I was disappointed that Fraser Forster left a couple of years ago.

“I always thought he was a good fit and did really well for the club.

“I was pleased Joe made the right move and he’s doing a fantastic job.”

Hart will be determined to again impress his old chum – and several million others – at Hampden at the weekend.

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