Conor Hazard now playing for Celtic future; current contract to expire in the summer
So much has been said about Conor Hazard’s composed Celtic outing on Thursday night, but it’s also important to remember that the youngster is also fighting for his Parkhead future.
Hazard was chosen by Neil Lennon to take his place in between the sticks for the 3-2 win against Lille, and he performed capably throughout. There was nothing Conor could do about the two fine goals from Jonathan Ikone and Timothy Weah, whilst he also managed to make a fine second-half stop to deny Isaac Lihadji.
Given that both his ball-handling and kicking also met the required standard, there’s an understandable train of thought that he should start against Kilmarnock today.
Indeed, given the recent goalkeeping problems we’ve had, just making a save should effectively guarantee him the jersey this afternoon. Lennon’s comments in the Scotsman last night also suggested he was ready to stick by the Northern Ireland youngster when he said: “Conor’s performances have been absolutely excellent. He has earned the right and we were delighted with him.”
However, not much has been spoken about the fact that Hazard is entering the final six months of his deal next month and can talk to potential suitors from January onwards.
Hazard clearly wants number one jersey if he stays at Celtic
The Lennoxtown graduate reportedly rejected a new Celtic deal in the summer, and this led to the Hoops pulling the plug on another loan move to Dundee (The Courier). This left Hazard in the unfortunate position of being Celtic’s third-choice stopper and looking like not getting a chance due to the importance of the 10-in-a-row season.
But there’s a good chance the contract situation will change if he continues to perform. It’s clear he’s fighting for his Celtic future at this point after his contract rejection in the summer, or at least the Celtic future that he wants. It’s one that clearly doesn’t involve such a strong relationship with the bench as he’s had in recent years.
Hazard spoke in the Belfast Telegraph back in September about the need to play week-in, week-out if he wants to make his mark at senior level with Northern Ireland.
That’s clearly in his head when it comes to his long-term future. But in order for him to get those guarantees in Glasgow, he’s going to need to continue to keep his place and perform capably for one of the biggest six-month periods in the club’s history.
That won’t only show his quality, but also the bottle he has. At 22, he’ll want to start playing on a regular basis. He’s no longer 17 or 18, the time has come for him to be getting consistent game-time.
This could very well be his last chance to do that at Celtic given he doesn’t appear interested in renewing his contract if he isn’t the first choice. Hopefully, he gets selected and continues his integration with a solid display.