It’s a decade since Joe Hart’s notorious shampoo adverts first aired.
Since then the goalkeeper’s career has been subjected to some of the flakiest football commentary around as he’s been punished and derided as much as he’s been championed.
Ironically really. Given that for the majority of that time he has been head and shoulders above the vast majority of the English goalkeeping fraternity even if at times he’s been starved of the chance to show it.
That’s the bald truth. Jose Mourinho reckoned so exactly a year ago. Nuno Espirito Santo didn’t. Simon Jordan? Well the shock jock’s expertise on goalkeeping might just be as convincing as Hart’s toe-curling ads.
His attack on the Celtic keeper on his radio show this week was an unnecessary as it was unfounded.
Jordan was responding to the goalkeeper’s airing of former Spurs boss Nuno’s blunt assessment that led to his swift Spurs exit.
But his OTT assessment of the goalkeeper summed up the strange and wildly conflicting opinions on Hart south of the border.
To put it in context here’s just some of the judgments on the keeper in the past 12 months.
Jose Mourinho, Tottenham manager, April 2021: “Joe Hart is the best English goalkeeper”.
Nuno Espirito Santo, new Tottenham manager, summer 2021: “Joe Hart is too slow, too old, too weak”.
Simon Jordan, radio co-host, March 2021: “Joe Hart is useless”.
I? For what it’s worth, I reckon Joe Hart is a class act and the single most important signing of the Ange Postecoglou Celtic revolution.
What a rollercoaster of opinion on one man who, let’s not forget, has 75 England caps, two Premier League titles, six major honors and 440 top flight appearances down south under his belt.
The only opinion that matters though? That of Postecoglou himself.
And I think it’s pretty safe to say the Hoops boss has been mightily impressed, mate.
That million quid the Hoops shelled out to land Hart on a three-year deal last August is, for me, the best bit of business Postecoglou has done.
In one fell swoop the manager solved Celtic’s biggest problem position and gave himself a foundation on which to build.
He got himself a leader on and off the pitch whose professionalism is infectious according to those who have worked with him, a man hungry to provide a point and most importantly a goalkeeper who still knows how to keep the ball out the net.
It’s incredible to think back to the cheap shots and criticism aimed at the goalkeeper, in particular during his England years where every minor error was scorned and the odd howler saw him become public enemy number one. It was hard not to think those adverts were being held against him.
Hart deserves respect. In the east end of Glasgow he has finally found it after years of being bundled about from the east end of London at West Ham to the back end of Lancashire with Burnley.
He has done so with a fearless display of goalkeeping that’s not only highlighted the best of his shotstopping ability and strengths on one-on-one situations that made him England’s number one – but also by being brave enough to buy into Postecoglou’s high-risk gameplan to play out from the back at all opportunities.
Many thought that it would be the downfall of Hart before he had even kicked a ball in the Premiership.
But he’s grown into the role impressively. And he’s continued to make the big saves, to be brave on crosses and boss his defense of him in the same way that saw him established as England’s number one 14 years ago.
Here’s another point though. Hard as it is to believe, Hart is still only 34. Incredibly he’s five years younger than Scotland’s number one Craig Gordon.
On current form it’s not a stretch to say he could well be deserving of an England recall after a four-year absence. Nick Pope is excellent, Fraser Forster is getting back to his best from him and Jordan Pickford still seems to be Gareth Southgate’s number one. But are any of them a safer bet than Hart?
Listen, this column is set up to be a potential jinx on the big man ahead of the weekend.
But Hart could literally throw one in through his own legs at Ibrox on Sunday and he still wouldn’t be “useless” as Jordan so rashly claimed.
It’s time those cheap shots were flushed down the drain. Just like Hart’s shampoo ads.