Many saw this breaking news coming, but its reveal still caused relative shockwaves when it became public knowledge through social media.

On Thursday afternoon, Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart announced his intention to retire from professional football at the end of the season. In conversation with his friend and mental performance coach Jamie Edwards, he spoke about his reasons for coming to that decision, as well as his overall emotions surrounding the topic as a whole. He said: “This is something I’ve thought about for a while.

“There is no right or wrong time, is there? The way this club works at the moment, there’s so much on it, there’s so much heart and soul poured into what we are doing as a football club. With the grand scheme of the club and the support base, and the conversations that go on around the goalkeeper position for next season, I just think, with the blessings of the club and the conversations with the club, with Brendan Rodgers and Stevie Woods, it was important to get the message out.

“It takes one thing off the table that can be speculated over. I’m definitely not going to be there next season; I won’t be available to play football. I want to take that off the table and we can talk about why, and then push forward.”

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No two ways about it, Hart will go down as one of Celtic’s most important signings of the past decade or so, especially when you take into consideration the circumstances surrounding his arrival. Signed on a three-year deal from Tottenham Hotspur – Ange Postecoglou’s first transaction with the London club – he was announced on the same day as fellow Premier League veteran James McCarthy, though he would achieve a far greater level of success than his fellow new recruit that day.

Celtic were still nursing the bruises of the 2020/21 season, a tumultuous campaign both on and off the park for the club. This chaos was felt on the pitch in the form of a goalkeeping merry-go-round, in which no less than THREE players were used throughout the season, in the collective shapes of big-money flop Vasilis Barkas, back-up Scott Bain and youngster Conor Hazard. Celtic needed stability at the back and called upon a keeper whose career’s trajectory was downwards.

Publicly deemed not good enough by new Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola back in 2016, Hart had spent time at Serie A club Torino, West Ham, Burnley and Spurs since his banishment from the first team at the Etihad Stadium. A dwindling career, perhaps, given the lack of game-time Hart was receiving at the majority of his clubs post-City. Both Celtic and their future goalkeeper were at a crossroads, and it would be a match made in heaven for the pair of them back in 2021.

Jetting out to play in his debut in the Czech Republic against Jablonec just days after putting pen to paper, Hart would admittedly have a shaky debut, getting used to his new surroundings and teammates as Celtic’s bona fide number one. It would be the return leg at Celtic Park that the relationship between the Englishman and his new supporters would form. A fanbase that had almost become accustomed to goalkeeping errors and concession of opposition goals, Hart that night pulled off a magnificent save one-on-one against Jablonec’s midfielder Milos Kratochvil from close range. Celebrated like a goal around Celtic Park that night, the club had a goalkeeper they could trust to pull off saves when it mattered once again.

Hart would become a mainstay as Celtic’s shot-stopper under both Postecoglou and his successor in Brendan Rodgers this season. A vocal presence both on and off of the pitch, his experience and leadership would have been vital cogs for the team on the park, in training and in the dressing room alongside captain Callum McGregor. Just take a look at his Instagram since the news became public, with players such as Raheem Sterling, Gael Clichy and John Guidetti all lending their support to the veteran following his announcement. Clearly a man with a lot of friends and support in the game.

Despite this, there will be no revisionism here when talking about Hart at Celtic. There have been moments – particularly in the first half of this season – when there have been more than a few question marks surrounding his place in the team as number one. From the Feyenoord free-kick at De Kuip, to his inexplicable decision-making against Livingston and Motherwell at the Tony Macaroni and Celtic Park respectively, Hart has displayed traits and indicators that his best days are behind him now, a competition against time that no player wins.

However, we must praise when praise is warranted, and his run of form since the return to football from the winter break has been nothing short of sensational. Big saves against Aberdeen and Hibernian away from home have saved Celtic from conceding costly goals, whilst his solitary save against Buckie Thistle in the Scottish Cup helped save the club from sparing their blushes against the Highland League outfit.

One of the points Hart wanted to highlight when outlining his reasons for making this decision was the insistence that he was locked in and fully focused for the remainder of this season. An important factor to consider, as a lot of eyes will no doubt be in his vicinity from now until the end of Celtic’s campaign. By doing this, all speculation surrounding his future ceases and allows the keeper to finish his career with maximum concentration and focus.

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What a career, it must be said. At the time of writing, Hart has 688 total appearances in all competitions for his club sides, as well as 75 senior appearances for the England national team. Playing at the highest level for both club and country, he represented his nation at four major tournaments, as well as making appearances in the Champions League for both Manchester City and Celtic. He won the same amount of silverware at these two clubs – five apiece – and won the Premier League’s Golden Glove four times, as well as making the Premiership Team of the Season for last year’s efforts under Postecoglou.

A winner on the pitch and a top professional away from it, Hart will be fondly remembered for his time at Celtic, in a move that worked for all parties. He will be hoping to add another two domestic honours to his trophy cabinet come the end of the season, as his swansong begins.

Judging by his career, you would not put it past him to do so.