JOE HART was the only Celtic player to get the full 90 minutes in the 2-0 win over Norwich City as the champions completed their six-game undefeated work-out programme before the big kick-off.

Twenty-one players were utilised as Ange Postecoglou continued to monitor his squad before Aberdeen visit for Flag Day on Sunday.

A year ago, the Greek-Australian gaffer, who had just arrived the previous month, was scrambling to put a team together for the opening Premiership game against Hearts at Tynecastle.

Carl Starfelt was lobbed into the starting line-up after only two days in the country following his £4.2million switch from Russian giants Rubin Kazan.

TWO OF A KIND…Joe Hart and boss Ange Postecoglou celebrate Celtic’s title success.

Kyogo Furuhashi, the £4.6million purchase from J-League outfit Vissel Kobe, played a cameo role in the fading minutes after touching down in Scotland from Japan earlier that day.

Odsonne Edouard, Ryan Christie, Tom Rogic, Nir Bitton and Ismaila Soro all figured in Edinburgh where a last-gasp goal condemned the Hoops to a 2-1 loss. None of the five is still at Parkhead with four leaving on a permanent basis and the Ivorian midfielder on a year-long loan in Portugal.

Hart was still with Spurs at the time and preparing for anoher season as back-up to club captain Hugo Lloris.

It could be argued Postecoglou now has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal as he attempts to whittle down his starting line-up for every match day.

Starfelt, injured in the summer on international duty with Sweden, is the only regular who will be unavailable for the Premiership launch against Jim Goodwin’s Dons outfit.

GETTING DOWN TO WORK…Joe Hart makes a fine diving save to deny Norwich City at the weekend.

The 57-year-old title-winning manager now has quality options available as he ponders his selection and it is not a task the 75 times-capped England international keeper envies Big Ange.

“Absolutely not,” smiled Hart. “That’s why I’m just a soldier and he’s the general! If I’m asked to play, I’ll play, that’s all I need to worry about.”

The 35-year-old netminder, who made a couple of excellent saves against the Carrow Road side on Saturday, has slotted in well since his £1million three-year switch from the London club on August 3, making his debut two days later in the 4-2 win over FK Jablonec in the Czech Republic.

Hart admitted to a little rust and promised to sort it out as quickly as possible. He has been as good as his word.

WE’RE BEHIND YOU…Joe Hart has the backing of the Celtic support.

The former Manchester City No.1 became one of the team’s most consistent performers as they lifted the Premier Sports League Cup as well as the league championship crown – and he is ready to do it all again.

Hart said: “We’ve put ourselves in the best position we can. That has been the message.

“We can’t build on what we did last year as last year has gone. We set a level and we want to be at that level when we start on Sunday.

“It’s tough here. You need to win and you need to keep winning. But we are going to take care of ourselves and put ourselves in the best position to, hopefully, be on our mettle. If we are, we are going to win games.”

Callum McGregor insisted the champions now have a target on their backs following their tenth title success in 11 years, but the shotstopper doesn’t quite see it that way.

Y-E-S…Joe Hart celebrates another league victory on Celtic’s way to championship glory.

Hart, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “We’ve obviously got quality and we’ve got winners, but the better we get as a team, the more likely we are going to get the results we want.

“I don’t feel we have a target on our backs. The message from the manager, in my opinion, has been that we need to be the best that we can be. Everyone else is free to do what they need to do, everyone else is going to run their own race.

“We work hard every single day with the same intention, to get better and improve as a team.

“We’re trying to get everything right to put ourselves in as good a position to start on Sunday.”

Click Here for Comments >

About Author