Home Sports Joe Hart insists he can hit new heights further up the park...

Joe Hart insists he can hit new heights further up the park for Celtic


IT can take a little time to get to grips with Ange Postecoglou’s vision, Joe Hart admits. The Celtic goalkeeper, who recorded a clean sheet in the team’s final pre-season outing against Norwich City on Saturday, has been working under the Greek-Australian for almost a year to the day, yet it’s only now that he feels he fully understands the role his manager wants him to play.

As the Premiership champions prepare to retain their crown, beginning with Sunday’s curtain-raiser against Aberdeen at home, and gear up for Postecoglou’s second campaign at the helm, Hart believes that time is on the team’s side.

Twelve months of being coached by the former Yokohama F. Marinos boss has left the former England internationalist with a firm understanding of his manager’s philosophy. Hints at a change to the goalkeeper’s role about as subtle as a steam train have been evident throughout pre-season – it’s not uncommon to see Hart 40 or 50 yards from goal during build-up, helping the team recycle possession – and the 35-year-old feels he understands the ploy well enough now to properly execute it on the park.

The change in role for Hart is a microcosm of the team as a whole. Now that the fundamentals of Postecoglou’s tactics have been mastered, more complex ideas can be introduced and developed. Most players in the squad will benefit from a full pre-season under their belts, too, and the result should be a more cohesive team out on the park once the new season gets under way.

“Time will tell. In theory, it does,” Hart said. “Speaking as a new player from last year, I’ve really enjoyed knowing where I was at the start of the season, being part of our pre-season, going in to do what we are going to do.

“It’s not an easy system to walk into and a lot of us, it’s going to be easier when the majority of us are a year in and understand what is required. The newer players will see every day what we are doing. Last year we were learning on the spot a little bit.

“That [playing high up the park] is always where he wants his goalie. I know that, we know that. That’s how he sees football. But he also understands you have to play with the players you have got.

“I couldn’t just come in and play as high as that as I’d never done it before, so I had to learn and I’m still learning. That’s why I absolutely love being here and playing under the manager.

“It’s becoming less uncomfortable to be that high. Before, to be that high, I always thought ‘danger, danger’. But now I understand the reasons why I am there. I am not there for any reason to help the team to progress and move forward. I understand the reasons better, so I feel more comfortable.”

As Hart alludes to, he is feeling right at home in Glasgow’s east end these days. Being awarded the No.1 jersey earlier this summer was a symbolic move that underlined what we already knew – that the former Manchester City and Spurs goalkeeper is Postecoglou’s first pick between the sticks – and he feels as comfortable as he ever has heading into a new season.

“Yeah, definitely,” Hart replies when the suggestion is put to him. “Simple as that. As far back as it doesn’t spring out to me. Even when I was set at Manchester City, I was still coming off the back of Euros, World Cups, this and that, coming in with a couple of weeks to prepare.

“So in terms of knowing where I was going to be, what was required of me and having time to prepare for it, I’d say…I don’t really look back too much. I’ll look back when I’m done. Right now I feel good.

“Is there more to come? That option is definitely there, but it is down to us. To me, us as individuals, us as a team. The manager constantly references it: Why not make the game you are about to play in your best game you have ever played in?

“I love that message and I live by that message, so there’s definitely that opportunity, but how it will play out, we will see.”

Hart might have the No.1 jersey on his back but he knows he will have to work hard to retain it. Swiss shot-stopper Benjamin Siegrist has been brought in on a free transfer from Dundee United to challenge for the gloves, Scott Bain is still on the books at Parkhead and 19-year-old keeper Tobi Oluwayemi is on the periphery of the first team.

Celtic’s squad depth was on full display in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Norwich and Hart does not envy the selection headaches that await Postecoglou this season.

“Absolutely not. That’s why I’m just a soldier and he’s the general,” Hart said. “If I’m asked to play, I’ll play and if I’m not, that’s all I need to worry about. There’s no truer word spoken than: We are a squad.

“It doesn’t matter whether I’m playing, Benj, Bainy, Toby – goalkeeper-wise, I know each one of us could walk into that team and I feel that’s the feeling you need if you are going to be successful.

“We are all pulling in the same direction. It’s a big squad and it’s a big ask to get a squad to pull in the same direction and we all know good results help, but that’s why he is where he is as a manager.”

“It’s tough here. You need to win and you need to keep winning. But we are going to take care of ourselves and put ourselves in the best position to, hopefully, be on our mettle. And, if we are, we are going to win games.”


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