'It would be criminal of me' - Celtic star opens up on special celebrations after beating Hibs

Nearing the end of a largely unsatisfying spell with Burnley in 2020, Joe Hart was asked what he wanted from the rest of his career.
Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart shows off his winner's medal after the Premier Sports Cup victory over Hibs.Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart shows off his winner's medal after the Premier Sports Cup victory over Hibs.
Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart shows off his winner's medal after the Premier Sports Cup victory over Hibs.

He was, after all, just 33. Hardly any age for a goalkeeper at all, particularly one with his range of experiences.

“I just want to be a big part of a club and give my all to them,” he said. “That’s what burns through me.”

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That club turned out not to be Tottenham Hotspur, who he joined not long afterwards and took up a by then familiar position on the bench.

Hart lifts the trophy in front of his family.Hart lifts the trophy in front of his family.
Hart lifts the trophy in front of his family.

It took another move to find somewhere he can truly describe as home. His family were present at Hampden Park on Sunday as he picked up the first trophy of his Celtic career after the 2-1 win over Hibs. Now 35 and four months into a three-year contract, he wants this to be the first of many.

A Scottish League Cup winners’ medal might pale slightly in comparison to a couple of English Premier league titles with Manchester City. But it was notable that Hart celebrated the victory as wildly as anyone. He was also implicated in a champagne-spraying incident that meant manager Ange Postecoglou was smelling like the floor of a Formula 1 podium at the end. The goalkeeper was not making any apologies afterwards even if it means, as Postecoglou threatened, some brutal extra training sessions.

“This is huge because you live in the moment, don't you?” said Hart. “I don't live in the past and I certainly don't live in the future. I live in the moment. This was my first chance to win a trophy for this great club and I had my family here.

"It was special, really special,” he added. “I am very proud. I enjoyed the celebrations with the fans at the end. During the game you need to show composure and stay calm. But I am one of them – I love football, love playing, always have and always will.

Hart makes a big save from Hibs striker Kevin Nisbet.Hart makes a big save from Hibs striker Kevin Nisbet.
Hart makes a big save from Hibs striker Kevin Nisbet.

"Growing up, I never thought I'd have the opportunities to do the things I am doing. It would be criminal of me to be on this pitch and not enjoy it with the fans, when so many thousands would love to be there too.”

A year ago last weekend Hart was on the bench as Spurs lost 2-0 at home to Leicester City. Almost 12 months to the day later he was distinguishing himself in front of 30,000 Celtic fans who are rapidly falling in love with the former England No 1 after some initial suspicion.

Inactive for long spells, he excelled when called upon, blocking from Kevin Nisbet in the second half and then beating away an angled Joe Newell drive right at the end.

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"That's my job at Celtic,” he said. “We are going to be dominant in games but the other teams are very resolute. They make it hard for you to dominate with a lot of goals.

"Teams hang in games, so ultimately I will have a couple of actions to do and they could be important in the game. I have to be ready for that in every match.

“Teams will get chances and especially in a cup final. If it's close then it's always going to be carnage towards the end,” he added. “No matter how dominant we were, they had nothing to lose.

"They had big strong lads up front. Six attackers and two centre halves in the box at the end. But it was all good fun and we won in the end.”

Like everyone, Hart recognised who had provided the X- factor. He has played with some of the best strikers in the world at Manchester City and England, including Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane.

He believes Kyogo Furuhashi has all the hallmarks of a top forward in the way he can change a game in the blink of an eye.

“Kyogo is a top player,” he said. “He has come back from an injury that could have potentially put him out for a couple of weeks and put himself on the line.

"He is top. He only really got two chances in the final and he killed Hibs. It was top centre-forward play and it's what we needed. Callum McGregor and Tom Rogic showed great vision to find him and he did the rest.

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“We believe in the squad, of course we do. But when someone like Kyogo is available to play, he suits the style so well. There is no getting away from the fact he's our No1 striker and if he's available we are very happy.”

Hart paid tribute to the zest that meant there was no way Kyogo would have accepted sitting out on Sunday despite missing the previous two games with a hamstring strain. The Japanese striker has become such a major component of Ange Postecoglou’s revolution. The only frustration is the current language barrier that means his teammates cannot yet communicate their love for him other than by bearhugs of the type he was engulfed by when his manager turned to him at the final whistle.

“There is no getting away from the fact that his English isn't perfect and he's from the other side of the world, but he's such a team player," said Hart.

"He's an honest, humble, hard-working individual and a good human being. Kyogo feels our support as a squad and okay, maybe we can't sit there and have conversations with him. But he feels the love from us and he gives it back with his performances.”

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