JOE HART conceded four goals in Celtic’s Europa League Group G opening loss to Real Betis in Seville last night.
However, the 34-year-old former England international No.1, who agreed a three-year contract when he arrived in a £1million switch from Spurs, is emerging as a genuine favourite among the Hoops support.
Ange Postecoglou named the keeper as the team’s captain in the absence of the injured Callum McGregor against the Spanish cracks and the netminder responded with an excellent display, despite the disappointing defeat.
IN WITH A SHOUT…Joe Hart lets his feelings known in Seville.
Hart was blameless as he was afforded little protection by a defence still trying to knit together with Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt playing only their second game together.
There was a touch of class from the former Manchester City shopstopper who was praised by his former Etihad gaffer Manuel Pellegrini, now manager of last night’s Hoops conquerors.
Hart took to Instagram to say: “Very proud to captain this special club tonight. Tough result but we will improve and keep moving forward together.”
It was a big decision by Postecoglou, especially with his former Australian international playmaker Tom Rogic in his starting line-up against the La Liga outfit.
The Greek-Australian admitted: “One of the reasons I brought him in is because he is a fantastic character and has a great experience.
“It’s handy to have him here at the moment because of course with Cal missing we’re minus an important part of our structure on and off the field, but I’m sure Joe will handle it well.”
Celtic, of course, struggled in the No.1 position throughout the previous campaign when it became obvious £4.5million Vasilas Barkas would not be the answer to replacing Fraser Forster after the Englishman returned to Southampton following the completion of his season-long loan.
Scott Bain and Conor Hazard were also utilised throughout the term without any significant improvement and Hart has now arrived to relieve stress levels among the Hoops hierarchy, the players and the fans.
The experienced last line of defence will again lead the team at Livingston on Sunday if McGregor has not recovered from the leg injury he sustained in the 3-0 win over Ross County at Parkhead last weekend.