JOE HART’S three years as Celtic’s unopposed No.1 goalkeeper will end next month.

The 75 times-capped England international shotstopper has announced he will call it a day and hang up his gloves when the final whistle sounds at the completion of an engrossing campaign.

Hart will again be the champions’ guardian between the posts when Brendan Rodgers’ side face Philippe Clement’s outfit at Ibrox in the noon kick-off on Sunday.

Depending on how the holders fare in their Scottish Cup semi-final against Aberdeen at Hampden a fortnight tomorrow and how the Govan club perform against Hearts in their last-four encounter 24 hours later, it could be the much-decorated netminder’s third last Glasgow derby.

ON THE CREST OF A WAVE…Joe Hart hopes to bring down the curtain on his three years at Celtic with a league and Cup double.

Goalkeeping guru Tim Flowers originally worked with Hart, then an eager 20-year-old prospect who had joined Manchester City from Shrewsbury in the summer of 2006.

A year later, those duties were taken over by Eric Steele who delivers a forthright view of the news of the keeper’s imminent retirement from playing.

He exclaimed: “Joe retiring…dearie me, what a waste of a fantastic goalkeeper.

“I’m 100 per cent behind Joe’s decision, but I’ve watched some of our old clips and I just think, wow, we will miss him massively. You don’t play 75 times for England without being a very good goalkeeper.

“It just seems a waste. I’m so pleased Scotland have seen the Joe Hart that I knew.”

Steele, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “He had a slight hiccup at Tottenham.

NO WAY THROUGH…Joe Hart and Alistair Johnston combine to block Cyriel Dessers in Celtic’s 2-1 win at Parkhead in December.

“But all credit to him he thought: ‘Do you know what I’m going to have a right good shot at it up in Scotland’.

“That takes guts and heart. Joe has a huge heart.

“Every time I’ve spoken to him since the move to Celtic, he’s said he is loving it. He’s played with a big smile on his face. That’s what I’ll miss. People always ask who the best goalkeeper I’ve worked with is. I don’t have favourites.

“But, boy did I love working with Joe. He will always be up there with the best and I mean the likes of Edwin van der Sar, David De Gea and Peter Schmeichel.”

Coincidentally, Steele, who kept goal for Brighton, Watford and Derby before replacing ex-England international Flowers at City, also trained Hart’s opposite number Jack Butland during their spell together at County.

The coach is looking forward to watching both his proteges in action in the titanic tussle on Sunday and commented: “What an occasion and, believe me, both these guys are absolutely built for it.

“I will be delighted with a 0-0, a clean sheet for Joe and Jack and then let the battle commence after that to win the title.

THE SIGNS ARE GOOD…Joe Hart displays his feelings at the end of Celtic’s 2-1 victory over Hibs at Easter Road in February.

“Scottish football has been brilliant for Joe and Jack. Their moves came at a time where they were needing to get back to where they should be.

“What separates the greats is that when they need to be they are the calmest men on the field. Those two are great examples of that.

“There have been crucial moments in games where both have demonstrated unbelievable concentration levels when they’ve had to make the big save at the right time.”

Kyogo Furuhashi has brought anguish to Butland in his previous two encounters with the champions. The Japanese ace will be looking for a hat-trick of winners at the weekend.
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