Conor Hazard compares Helsinki and Celtic; talks up first-team hopes

By Euan Davidson

January 28, 2022

Conor Hazard has swapped the tropical climes of, erm, Glasgow for the freezing cold of Helsinki, and all in the name of progress, the keeper says.

Hazard sealed a one-year loan deal with HJK Helsinki, two in a row Champions of Finland. And he did so with Ange Postecoglou’s blessing, a manager who Hazard says “everyone loves”. It’s a move out of left-field though, in the best way. The Northern Ireland shot-stopper and Scottish Cup hero has made a very interesting choice indeed, and now he’s explained his thinking.

It’s all in the aid of boosting his Celtic chances.

Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Hazard explained [Daily Record]: “I am at the point in my career where I need regular game time because at the end of the day my main aim is to be Celtic’s number one goalkeeper.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for me to come here and show what I can do and I’ve heard that Helsinki is a beautiful place to live as well.

“Their style of football and the way they play seems to be similar to Celtic. They’re one of the biggest clubs in Finland and the amount of pressure they have on them every week is similar to what Celtic have and you need to perform and win every single game.

“It’s a great move for me and I’ll be able to build on what it’s going to be like at home. I’ve spent some time on loan at Partick Thistle and Dundee previously but this is definitely the most different loan that I’ve had so far in my career as It’s currently -5 here and it’s snowing like mad.”

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Ange predicts a bright future as Celtic find a new hero at Tynecastle
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Celtic goalkeeper Conor Hazard braving the conditions of Helsinki for Hoops opportunity

Don’t worry Conor; the weather in Helsinki does get better.

In the summer, it can get as high as 17 degrees Celsius [Holiday-weather]. So, it’ll be bright but he still might need a fleece.

Helsinki is beautiful, though. And he’s joined a club in the midst of a dramatic title chase. After 22 games, HJK Helsinki sit second, with an identical record to first-placed KuPS Kuopio [BBC]. The difference is Helsinki’s inferior goal difference; something that Hazard will surely be aiming to sort out.

Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images

It’s a brave move, for sure. Not that Finland is some footballing backwater or anything disrespectful like that, of course. The Fins were in Euro 2020, and looked half-decent, too. But it’s more that it’s a step outside Hazard’s comfort zone, you’d have to imagine.

It shows the utter dedication he has to his goals, though. He’s not going to sit around waiting for an opportunity to fall on his lap. With Scott Bain and Joe Hart ahead of him, that’d be a long wait.

Instead, he’s making opportunities happen. And by setting off to Helsinki, he’s showing the exact right attitude. Hopefully, it’s one that wins him more silverware, and has him raring to compete for the number 1 jersey once he’s back.

Read more: Report: Celtic boss Ange keen on another Irish talent; linked with EPL move last month