Northern Ireland coach says emerging Celtic talent Conor Hazard was previously "frustrated"

By David Walton

December 15, 2020

Northern Ireland under-21 manager Andy Crosby has stated that Celtic youngster Conor Hazard was becoming “frustrated” with his lack of first-team opportunities.

Hazard has thrown himself right into the mix to be Celtic’s new number one after a dodgy start to the season for both Vasilis Barkas and Scott Bain.

The young Lennoxtown graduate was thrown into the nets against Lille and Kilmarnock – securing Celtic’s first clean sheet in 10 games against Alex Dyer’s side on Sunday. He also managed to make a fine reaction stop late on against Killie, whilst he’s impressed in commanding his area and with his distribution.

This is no surprise to Crosby, who works with Hazard so regularly with the N.I under-21s. But he’s also stated that the Hoops youngster was growing frustrated after previously failing to get a look-in at Parkhead.

As quoted by the Belfast Telegraph, Crosby said: “Celtic are an elite level club and to make that breakthrough, which he seems to have done, is a great step. I know from working with him he is driven in what he wants to achieve.

“Conor has taken the route of loans, which is what I think you need to do and experience first-team football. He has been looking for that opportunity at Celtic and has been a little frustrated as young players tend to be.

“But he has continued to do the right things, which is something we have spoken about, and Neil has thrown him in. Conor has come to the fore and played in two big wins and well-timed wins.”

Hazard ironically has to be admired for any “frustration”

It looked like being the easiest job in the world for Hazard this season. Sitting in the background and watching on as Bain and Barkas were rotated in the fight for the number one jersey.

The fact he wasn’t happy with that says a lot about both his character and determination to succeed. It would’ve been cushy for him to just sit back and accept what was happening, but it’s clear he’s thirsty for first-team football.

He recently brought this up in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph back in September, when he mentioned that he needs to be playing week-in, week-out to make Ian Baraclough’s Northern Ireland A squad regularly. Considering he reportedly knocked back a contract from Celtic in the summer (The Courier), it was clear he’d had enough of sitting on the bench and waiting his turn.

Celtic and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Conor Hazard (Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Now, it looks like his Celtic career is set to make a dramatic U-turn. But whether that U-turn will be completed or not really is down to him and his consistency. If he can show the Hoops that they don’t need to delve into the January window to bring in another goalkeeper, he should be delighted with himself and can safely consider himself our new number one.

The Scottish Sun reported yesterday that Celtic were closing in on a new contract with Hazard, and that’s perhaps the biggest sign yet that Lennon is set to give him a prolonged run to prove himself in.

Let’s see if he can take it with a huge Scottish Cup final coming up on Sunday.

In other news, David Turnbull’s rise has shown up one of Lennon’s comments after Celtic 1-1 St Johnstone.