Joe Hart can be Celtic title X-factor as former shot stopper claims Premiership win would be a ‘walk in the park’

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Joe Hart played a key role in the winning of the most nerve-shredding and dramatic English Premier League title triumph.

As far as Allen McKnight is concerned, replicating that success in Scotland could be like a walk in the Celtic Park for the chilled-out Hoops No.1.

Hart went tearing around the Etihad in celebration after Sergio Aguero’s unforgettable stoppage-time winner against QPR gave Manchester City league glory.

It’s almost 10 years since that famous victory and, now a veteran, the keeper is in the teeth of another potentially-titanic flag battle.

With such experience in the bag, McKnight is convinced Hart will be a calming influence in the camp in the race for this term’s title which will reach fever pitch in Sunday’s clash against Rangers at Ibrox.

The former Celtic shotstopper said: “I would think Joe is looking forward to every game and looking to have a challenge in every game. He’ll want teams coming onto Celtic and being there to help.

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“When you have played in the English Premier League and you manage to win it, I don’t think there are many higher hurdles to jump.

“When you don’t just win an English Premier League, but win one in that fashion, you would be able to handle just about anything.

“It’s not disrespectful to the Scottish Premiership and I’m sure he is loving being part of a huge club and being in there fighting for medals, but I’m sure Joe is finding it within his grasp.

“Having been through some of those experiences, it’s maybe even a walk in the park.”

Hart has proven an outstanding signing for Ange Postecoglou.

Snapped up on a three-year deal last August, the former England ace has registered 16 clean sheets in 28 top-flight games as his team have charged to the summit.

Hart has proven many doubters wrong. After leaving City for loan spells at Torino and West Ham, he had a term at Burnley before being dropped for the fit-again Tom Heaton and barely made an appearance for Spurs before joining Celtic.

McKnight felt he was dealt a harsh hand by City and said: “I’m glad he’s doing well at Celtic. Pep Guardiola put a finger on him. And because of Guardiola’s success, everyone then condemned Joe.

“But it was about footballing ability. That’s part and parcel of today’s game, but you do have to be a goalkeeper first and foremost and a footballer afterwards.

“Guardiola wanted it the other way around and he found a unique piece of kit in the one they have now, Ederson.

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“There are two aspects. There’s the short pass and the ability and then the brave one, the 40 yarder over the winger’s head.

“Some teams don’t use that. Some leave a man in the hole and you go out through the center and you don’t need a rangefinder.

“But, as long as Joe had options, he’d be fine. Any player on a pitch who doesn’t have options struggles or makes mistakes.”

As well as his ability, Hart’s nous and cool head have also been important to defenders such as Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Stafelt.

McKnight says the type of influence he exerts on team-mates is crucial to their performances as well as his own as he’s recovered his career superbly following the unsavory ax from Guardiola which put his career into a tailspin.

He explained: “He had to do that to himself. Be calm. And he took himself through the rocky period.

“If he can impose that on other players, then fantastic.

“Everyone hits bad days and some people said he finished, but I’m sure he never thought that and to get back into top football is not easy.

“But he obviously had the mindset for it and the only way to do that is to be that calm and even-headed type.

“When you saw keepers like David Seaman and Pat Jennings back in the days, those guys were not excitable chaps.

“They weren’t, for example, like Jordan Pickford. He’s not be that man.

“And the way Everton are bleeding goals at the minute, it wouldn’t take him long to get into trouble because he’s not going to be calm.

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“He talks about fighting his way out of it, but you can’t. You have to just chill and be good at doing your job and calming everyone around you.

“Chaos in the backline doesn’t work for you or your defenders.

“As goalkeepers, we looked at the Peter Schmeichel formula. He was a bit noisy and told people off, but there was no excitement. Not losing of his cool from him.

“There was no chaos. Never ever did he show chaos. Just an opinion.

“Pickford explains himself as being smaller than average for a keeper and makes up for it in energy. But the energy is sometimes negative and rubs off on players around him.

“Joe seems calm in his work at Celtic and that is only going to be helpful to those in front of him, especially ones who were having to settle into a new defense like the guys have done there this season.”



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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