Conor Hazard already at Celtic crossroads two months after new contract
Conor Hazard signed his new Celtic contract as recently as two months ago, and already he’s at a crucial juncture in his Parkhead career.
Hazard looked like he was set for a breakthrough season back in December. He broke his way into the side due to the inefficient goalkeeping of both Vasilis Barkas and Scott Bain respectively. He would go on to bag three clean sheets as well as save two penalties that won Celtic the Scottish Cup final against Hearts.
However, there were still question marks. At 23, Hazard was still struggling with cross-balls. Hearts scored twice in that cup final due to poor goalkeeping errors. Kevin Nisbet would do similar for Hibs at Parkhead a month later when Hazard was again given a shot. But even so, the Northern Irishman still had a total of four clean sheets in six games.
It wasn’t a bad return, but he was again swiftly dropped as Barkas reclaimed his place. Bain would eventually see the season out as the number one, but Hazard’s contribution was noted back in March when he signed a new contract. Celtic had invested in him and it looked like he would be set for another opportunity.
He didn’t get one. And now we reach the summer transfer window with Hazard 23 years old and still third-choice goalkeeper.
New Conor Hazard Celtic contract doesn’t guarantee he stays
Usually, when a player signs a new deal, that’s him tied down for the long term. All speculation surrounding that player is put to bed and he focuses on his football at the club he’s signed for. That isn’t necessarily the case with Hazard, who just earned his 3rd consecutive Northern Ireland call-up this week.
In the past, he’s spoken about the need to play first-team football regularly. He told the Belfast Telegraph back in September that he was open to leaving Celtic if he wasn’t playing regularly. Fast forward eight months and he’s in the exact same position he was back then.
He’s already done the loan circuit too. He’s played regularly in loan spells with Dundee, Falkirk, and Partick Thistle respectively. Hazard has absolutely nothing to prove or gain by going back down to the Championship.
If an opportunity arose for him to head off to a Premiership club, then Celtic should jump on it. Hazard’s contract expires in the summer of 2023, meaning he still has time to make it here before another decision needs to be made. But his main priority next season should be first-team football wherever he can get it, especially with him being so close to the Northern Ireland first-team.
Celtic fans could do with seeing Hazard in action regularly in the Premiership. But there remains a reluctance from the club to throw him in between our own sticks. Whether the new manager sees something special in him to make that bold move is highly doubtful. Yet at the same time, Hazard still has real potential.
This summer is going to be a major one for Hazard. He’s at a crossroads already in his Celtic career, and another year of twiddling his thumbs is no use for anyone. All eyes then on whether any interested top-flight parties come forward. That has to be the next step.