In Focus: Hart proving to be a safe pair of hands again in Scotland

James Nalton
LiveScore
Joe Hart is enjoying life as the first-choice goalkeeper at Celtic this season
Joe Hart is enjoying life as the first-choice goalkeeper at Celtic this season

After years of apparent decline, former England No1 Joe Hart is resurrecting his career in Scotland.

The ex-Manchester City keeper has hit form with Glasgow giants Celtic — and is now challenging for a domestic title while competing in Europe.

It is certainly some turnaround for the 34-year-old stopper. 

Celtic slumped to a 3-1 home defeat to Bodo/Glimt in the first leg of their Europa League knockout round play-off tie last week.

Ahead of the return fixture in Norway this evening, we look at Hart's resurgence. 

City exit

Hart has struggled to find a home since being deemed surplus to requirements by Pep Guardiola at City in 2016.

Though the Catalan boss will still regularly refer to him as a club legend, it was clear that the 75-cap international did not fit the style of football Guardiola wanted to instil at the Etihad.

Hart did not impress when loaned out to Torino or West Ham, which eventually led to him leaving the Citizens permanently in 2018.

Out of the England picture

That demotion at the club where he made his name had a significant impact on Hart’s England career.

The experienced custodian’s form dipped and by 2017 his international performances were under increasing scrutiny.

Current Three Lions No1 Jordan Pickford emerged during this time, making his debut in a friendly against Germany in November of that year.

And Hart’s appearance against Brazil just days later was to be his last for England.

He was left out of the 2018 World Cup squad by Gareth Southgate and has not been called up since.

Searching for salvation

Joe Hart has been a busy man during Celtic's European matches this term
Joe Hart has been a busy man during Celtic's European matches this term

Prior to this season with Celtic, Hart’s last action as an undisputed No1 was on loan with Torino in 2016-17.

He was placed into a difficult situation behind an often shaky defence — and though he was a popular character at the club, it soon became clear it was not a long-term solution.

More mixed performances came with West Ham — again on loan — and then Burnley, who he joined after leaving City.

At Turf Moor, he was one of a number of talented goalkeepers and was unable to nail down a regular starting spot before spending another year on the sidelines at Tottenham.

It was back to square one for Hart before salvation presented itself in Scotland. 

Impressed by Postecoglou

Joe Hart has favoured shorter distribution in Celtic's recent European matches
Joe Hart has favoured shorter distribution in Celtic's recent European matches

Given Hart was let go by City due to an apparent inability to contribute to the team’s build-up play, his adaptation at Celtic has been intriguing.

The Shrewsbury native puts much of his development down to working with the club’s Australian coach Ange Postecoglou.

Speaking last December, he said: "I’ve been very impressed by the manager and the way he puts things across.

"You can be very blase and just tell people you want to play out from the back, but there’s a process to it.

"What I love is there are reasons behind what I do.

"For me personally, with the point I’m at in my career and with my understanding of football, I like to ask why we are doing something. And I don’t find myself asking why much with this style.

"It makes a lot of sense and it is perfectly explained."

A genuine success at Celtic

Celtic will need Joe Hart to be at his best if they are to overturn their first-leg deficit against Bodo/Glimt
Celtic will need Joe Hart to be at his best if they are to overturn their first-leg deficit against Bodo/Glimt

Opinions on Hart’s success at Celtic are not artificially boosted by sentiment or by a desire for him to get his career back on track.

He has been genuinely impressive for the Bhoys, who have benefitted from his presence just as much as Hart himself has from the move.

The 6ft 5in keeper is considered a key part of the club’s excellent form this season, with the Bhoys sitting top of the Scottish Premiership with 27 games played.

Many view him as their best signing of the campaign — which is some achievement given the quality of the other new arrivals at Celtic Park.

A clean sheet in Norway tonight is almost imperative if Postecoglou's side are to repair the damage done in their first-leg loss.

But should Hart and his team-mates complete a spectacular turnaround, their quest to end the season with four trophies in the cabinet will be back on track.

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CelticEuropa Conference League 1
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