JOE HART is taking nothing for granted as he prepares for a grand finale to his colourful 20-year career.

The 37-year-old 75 times-capped England international keeper is being lined up for a spectacular last hurrah in the game he has graced since making his debut with Shrewsbury Town in 2004, three years before his move to Manchester City.

Hart will be Celtic’s guardian when they take on Philippe Clement’s Ibrox outfit in the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden on the iconic date of May 25, exactly 57 years to the day Jock Stein’s men became the first British team to conquer Europe.

Asked if it could be the perfect way to bow out, Hart admitted: “It could be, hopefully. I’ve got a date now that I know is going to be the final game that I am available to be involved in.

FINAL FLING…Joe Hart holds aloft the Scottish Cup after last season’s 3-1 triumph over Inverness Caley Thistle at Hampden.

“Who knows what is going to happen in the next five weeks? Hopefully, I’ll be fit and in form and picked to play. It’s all set up, though.”

Before that showpiece crescendo, however, Hart and his Hoops team-mates have five crucial league challenges to face in their quest for their third successive title and their twelfth crown in 13 years.

Brendan Rodgers’ team have a three-point advantage as they kick off the countdown against Dundee at Dens Park on Sunday. Their remaining away fixture is at Kilmarnock with three home matches due against Hearts, Rangers and St Mirren.

Celtic are aiming for another Flag Day in Paradise when the Paisley club visit on Saturday May 18, a week after the fourth derby debut of the term with the Hoops winning two and drawing one of the previous encounters.

Hart sounds a note of caution as he insists: “Nothing is done. We’ve just got to take care of our business and focus on the next game.

”We’ve had warning signs all season. There’s no excuse. It’s not been a perfect season, but we’re digging in.

DETERMINED…Joe Hart aims to go out as a winner.

“At the right moments, we are playing our stuff, but there are also moments when the games are tight and tough and we are still managing to do our thing.

“We’ve put ourselves in a good spot and we’re feeling good. We’ve got a great opportunity of a good training week ahead of us, we will then go to Dundee and put it all on the line.”

Boss Rodgers has already warned his players of the perils of going soft on the run-in and Hart, speaking to the Daily Record, agreed: “One hundred per cent. We’re focused, we’ve got a lot of energy and we’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us.

“By no means have we strolled this season. We need to be at it to be successful.”

The netminder, who has already picked up two Premiership medals as well as enjoying a double League Cup success and a Scottish Cup since arriving at Parkhead in August 2021, acknowledged the fact that it can only be of a massive benefit to the team to have key players such as skipper Callum McGregor, centre-back Cameron Carter-Vickers and Japanese playmaker Reo Hatate returning to the fold.

Encouraging news has also emerged concerning Daizen Maeda, as CQN reported. Rodgers has hinted the flying winger may be ready for a quickfire return following his hamstring injury that threatened to cut his contribution short.

Hart added: “Everyone is fit apart from the obvious issue we have with Daizen, but, hopefully, we are going to get him back before the end of the season.

“Everyone else is fit and available, and everyone wants to do their best to put us in the best place possible.”

Let the countdown begin!
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