A goalkeeper with England involvement firmly in the rear view mirror, with no regular football over the previous two years, and facing the ignominy of being no better thought of than third choice for the club vacated for Celtic. Yet, the loan signing of Fraser Forster in the summer of 2019 worked out pretty well for the Parkhead club. And, whatever the pitfalls, the same could easily be true should the pending deal to bring Joe Hart from Tottenham Hotspur be concluded in the next 24 hours.
The 34-year-old Hart’s career has badly gone awry since he was earning the last of a thumping 75 caps for his country in 2017…three months after he was vilified for conceding two free-kick strikes to a certain Leigh Griffiths at Hampden. By then, he had endured a mixed bag of a loan season in Torino, having been unceremoniously dumped by Pep Guardiola at a Manchester City he helped to the title in 2013-14 and 2011-12.
Yet, Hart’s subsequent travails with Burnley and the London club must be set in context, both in terms of what has befallen him, and what has befallen the Celtic keepers he will instantly move above in the pecking order at Glasgow. A vastly experienced, hulking keeper with genuine personality, he undoubtedly would be a signing of pedigree for Ange Postecoglou. And while Hart has always had the odd mistake in him, offsetting that is the fact any showreel of his best moments would demonstrate he is also a keeper who makes big saves at key moments. This necessity for a Celtic keeper has proved beyond Scott Bain and Vasilis Barkas as the position at the club has become a torture chamber for the pair over the past 13 months. Increasingly, all that has been engendered for the duo from being swapped in-and-out of the team is further diminshment and psychological scarring.
While not boasting the form to encourage, Hart at least exactly the type – in terms of stature both as a professional and when it comes to frame – to offer a fresh impetus in the bid to address previously intractable internal difficulties. He hasn’t played competitively since Spurs 4-0 win over Wolfsburg in the Europa League in late February. Yet, that doesn’t mean that, should he be confirmed imminently, there wouldn’t be cause to sling him in for the third qualifier in that tournament away to Czech side Jablonec on Thursday. Not when there is a desperate need for Postecoglou to get a foothold in this campaign following three winless encounters with which he has opened up his Celtic tenure.
Weighing up all factors, Hart has the potential to be a valuable capture. He may have played second fiddle at Burnley and White Hart Lane, but consider the situations in which he found himself at both those clubs. The Lancashire side had Nick Pope, who some would argue is the equal of any current English keeper, while in No.1 and captain, Hugo Lloris, Spurs have a French world champion at their command.
Hart has never been given the trust of being a permanent first pick for, essentially, five years. Accorded that status at Celtic could just prove the catalyst to rediscover his considerable best. It certainly did that for Forster.