"No evidence"; Pat Bonner didn't sound happy with Celtic dropping Conor Hazard

By David Walton

December 30, 2020

BBC Sportsound pundit Pat Bonner didn’t sound too pleased with the decision to drop Celtic youngster Conor Hazard today.

Neil Lennon surprisingly went with Vasilis Barkas for the visit of Dundee United this afternoon. The Greek stopper managed to bag his first clean sheet October, but it came on the back of a controversial decision.

Hazard had been performing capably in recent weeks. He had bagged three clean sheets in five and looked to have been seizing his opportunity to be the club’s number one.

So today’s decision came as a huge surprise. And it certainly didn’t sound like one that Bonner was too pleased about.

Speaking to BBC Sportsound before today’s 3-0 win (BBC Radio Scotland, 14:21), the former Celtic goalkeeper said: “I’ve got to say that I’ve got mixed feelings about it. I really feel that Hazard – he’s dropped him out. Will it affect his confidence and so on? Will Barkas even perform? That’s the question I suppose.

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“He’s got to be thinking towards the weekend game against Rangers. Any reason for putting Barkas in has got to be that one. I’ve listened to the argument about if you put Hazard in and he doesn’t perform then it could destroy him. On the other hand, if he goes in and performs you have a goalkeeper for the next five or six years.

“To drop him out now at this point, I think you then end up asking more questions about him in the future. He’s got to go in some time. If you think towards the Rangers game, there’s no evidence that Barkas has made any big saves.”

Lennon has made his decision; Celtic fans will need to back it

When we go to Ibrox at the weekend, Barkas will be heavily backed. He’ll have the support of every Celtic supporter on the planet. We all hope he’ll pull off some miracle stops if necessary.

But that’s the difference with Barkas. All we’re doing is hoping. There’s no expectation there given we have no real idea of what he’s capable of. He’s yet to show what he’s all about in Glasgow.

Even today against Dundee United, there was one unconvincing moment. For me, he was too easily chipped by Mark McNulty that led to Chris Jullien’s injury. He could’ve made himself look bigger there. It was a massive opportunity for the Arabs to get back into the game at 2-0.

Vasilis Barkas in action for Celtic vs Dundee United (Photo by Craig Foy/SNS Group via Getty Images)

So there is no evidence like Bonner says to suggest that Barkas will be a top performer at Ibrox. All there is really is hope. Granted, you could perhaps say the same about Hazard, but he had earned his spot.

Winning the Scottish Cup final for Celtic should’ve guaranteed him his big opportunity. Now you wonder just when Hazard is genuinely going to get his big opportunity. When Lennon eventually throws him back in at some stage in the future, the same questions will be asked.

In any case, hopefully Barkas comes up big on Saturday. He certainly needs a performance there.

In other news, it looks as though Turnbull is going to start at Ibrox after Lennon’s exciting comments.