Celtic could be taking a significant risk with Joe Hart
So, barring any last-minute drama, Celtic will land the signing of 75-cap man Joe Hart from Tottenham Hotspur.
If you could put a single adjective against Hart’s CV, it’d be “unusual”. The guy flew out the blocks early on. At Manchester City, he won 4 Premier League Golden Glove awards [Premier League], earning significant playing time for England at major tournaments. He was the undisputed number 1 for a title-winning side.
Yet, as soon as Pep Guardiola arrived at the Etihad, Hart’s top-level days were over. Punted out to Torino, Guardiola just had no faith in Hart’s abilities on the ball.
Since his sojourn in Serie A, it’s been one disappointing move after another. West Ham, Burnley and then Spurs took a flyer on Hart with diminishing returns [Transfermarkt]. Now 34, he seems the opposite of a typical Celtic signing.
Except, you have to imagine that he’s won the faith of Ange Postecoglou. A straight-shooter of a boss with little time for falsehoods or pretension, the self-confessed control freak has to have had conversations with the goalkeeper.
That being the case, it’d be quite a turnaround for Hart. At one point, the shampoo endorsing goalkeeper was seen as an example of why England weren’t doing well. Players with big egos and reputations were thrown to the wayside by Gareth Southgate, and to be fair to him, it’s worked.
Is Joe Hart the goalkeeping equivalent to Scott Sinclair or Chris Sutton?
We have had some luck in this area. Consider both Chris Sutton and Scott Sinclair. Both arrived at Celtic after nightmarish spells in England. Both had been successes, and won silverware. Certainly, both had been tipped to land bigger contracts hitherto signing for Celtic.
But to Celtic they came, and in different eras, the Englishmen were unmitigated successes. Despite having earned big money in the past, and with reputations to recover, Sinclair and Sutton checked in their egos at Parkhead’s gates, listened to their manager, and rejuvenated their fortunes.
Hart could do it, too. If Ange Postecoglou has heard enough from him to give the move his blessing, then it’s an encouraging sign. Hart would also enjoy working with Stevie Woods, who helped Craig Gordon and Fraser Forster reach their career peaks.
Woods has worked in recovering the confidence of beleaguered goalkeepers before. He’s also helped keepers develop their ground game, becoming part of the defence and gaining confidence in possession.
That’ll be key, because currently, Hart looks like a misshapen fit for what Postecoglou wants from a goalkeeper. The Celtic boss likes his keepers camped high up in possession, willing to take the ball on and acting as another defender.
Clearly, Hart’s keen on doing that, because he’d have to be. If this Celtic regime were taking a chance on a goalkeeper like Joe Hart, they’d have to be impressed by what he’s offering as a personality. If he’s willing to adapt his game, then all the better.
It’s still a considerable gamble, though, as weird as that is to say about a goalkeeper capped 75 times by England. This will either be a master-stroke or a costly gamble; it’s hard to see an in-between.