Everybody, it seems, has an opinion on Joe Hart.

The former England number one was lauded and then lambasted in his homeland as his early rise to prominence at Manchester City gave way to years spent searching for a new pair of sticks to call home.

Capable of the spectacular but also the subject of several high-profile howlers, Hart has never been one to fade meekly into the background for long.

With a move to Celtic now the latest entry in the 34-year-old's CV, we take a closer look at his career to date and how he might fit in under Ange Postecoglou.

Rapid rise

Hart hit the heights relatively quickly at City, with an FA Cup win at the age of 24 kick-starting a clean sweep of English domestic honours within the next couple of seasons. 

Internationally, Hart represented England 75 times between 2008 and 2017 and played at three major tournaments. Despite his status as number one, he made the headlines as often for his errors as his heroics.

After the last of those - Euro 2016, where he was culpable for the Three Lions' shock loss to Iceland - he returned to Manchester City to find a new manager who was absolutely committed to an attacking, ball-dominant style of play in Pep Guardiola. 

He was swiftly informed that he did not fit the mould of a modern keeper in Guardiola's brave new City and joined Torino on loan for the 2016-17 campaign.

Hart played 36 Serie A games while in Turin but kept just five clean sheets in an error-strewn season that ended with the Torino president Urbano Cairo quoted in the press afterwards as saying the club "probably didn’t expect so many mistakes from an England international". They did not sign him permanently.

What's he been up to since then?

Well, just like I reply to every high school classmate I haven't seen in 10 years when asked that question: nothing much really. 

The ill-fated spell in Italy was followed up with another loan, this time at Premier League side West Ham. Hart played 19 league games for the Hammers but was deposed as first-choice by Adrian in November 2017 and played only sporadically afterwards amid talk of a weakness in saving shots to his left.

Celtic Way:

A stint at Burnley came next, this time in a permanent move signalling the definite end of his time at City. Injuries to Nick Pope and Tom Heaton meant Hart played as the Clarets' first-choice from August to December before again losing the spot to Heaton upon his recovery.

Hart left Turf Moor at the end of the next season having made just three more appearances. He joined Tottenham as back-up to Hugo Lloris and played eight times during the club's Europa League run last term.

Potential positives

For all the negative publicity his career has garnered in the past few years, Hart was once an influential, standout player at the highest level. Wayne Rooney, for instance, once called him "the best keeper in the world". That experience is no doubt a massive factor in Celtic's decision to recruit him, such are the noted struggles of current custodians Scott Bain and Vasilis Barkas.

Indeed, Postecoglou referenced Hart's experience as the club announced his arrival alongside James McCarthy. He said: "I’m delighted that we have signed two top-class players in Joe and James.

"Both of them have a wealth of experience at both club and international level, and that is something which can only benefit the squad, and I’m looking forward to working with both of them."

That sentiment is something echoed by his former managers Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, who at various times both declared him the best in the country after one of the multiple occasions on which he put on a shot-stopping clinic. He even has a pitch named after him at City's training ground, such was his stature and influence during the club's rise to prominence.

READ MORE: Celtic announce double signing of Joe Hart and James McCarthy ahead of Europa League qualifiers

That sort of clout between the sticks could prove invaluable for a defence that's just learning to play a new system together and which still contains what some might term spare parts. This is a man, after all, who was once mooted as a future England skipper and did don the armband more than once.

He's also no stranger to the weight of expectation at a club seeking to win trophies and, crucially, appears to have come to Celtic for the 'right' reasons. A reported wage cut and a three-year deal is a vote of confidence from both parties that could pay off handsomely if Hart regains the sort of confidence and form he showed at his last proper football home.

While lack of game-time is usually the first point thrown up against Hart, there's only so much credence that can be given. After all, both of Celtic's last two undisputed number ones - Fraser Forster and Craig Gordon - arrived at the club with a distinct lack of match action behind them and both proved to be a success.

Celtic Way:

Potential negatives

It's his distribution, isn't it? Well, with a sweeper-keeper type role it's as much about how comfortable they are receiving the ball as it is how accurate they are releasing it themselves.

To that end, I've compared Hart's recent Europa League run (a small sample size, admittedly, but his most recent) while at Spurs with the three most recent Celtic number ones: Fraser Forster, Vasilis Barkas and Scott Bain. With all due respect to Scottish Cup-winning starter Conor Hazard, he has been omitted. 

Celtic Way:

It is worth mentioning in conjunction with this table that, in Postecoglou's short competitive tenure, both Barkas and Bain have already been more involved. Barkas received 28 passes against Midtjylland while Bain received an average of 31 between the second leg against the Danes and the league opener at Hearts.

Given Hiroki Iikura and Il-Gyu Park (Postecoglou's starting keepers during his time in Japan) both passed the ball upwards of 30 times a game on average, there's no doubt Hart will see an upsurge in his involvement at Parkhead as teams adopt a low-block to frustrate Celtic's attacking intent every other week.

Yet there is a glimmer of hope in that Hart himself acknowledged that, when Guardiola nudge him towards the City exit, the Catalonian did not have an issue with his abilities as a goalkeeper per se - he simply did not feel the Englishman could play the way he wanted his number one to play. 

"He’s one of the most powerful influencers in the game, if not the most powerful," Hart said at the time. "He didn’t have a problem with me as a goalkeeper - there was never a cross word between us. Ability-wise, he saw what he needed to do for the future and that wasn’t me."

READ MORE: Celtic may not need world class shot stopper to be goalkeeper in Ange Postecoglou's side - James Dailey

Not that he ever got the chance to prove Guardiola wrong. Hart played just once under Guardiola before his loan move to Torino, something he later said affected his mental health.

Nevertheless, Postecoglou could encounter similar style issues and this is something Hart must be prepared to at least try to overcome; the Celtic manager is not the type to adapt his approach for one player.

But it can be done. Players can recalibrate. For a recent example of the workload a new boss with new ideals can place on a goalkeeper - one who then rose to the challenge - look no further than Craig Gordon and Brendan Rodgers.

Always an immensely talented shot-stopper, Gordon was nevertheless under threat on the eve of the 2016-17 season due to Rodgers' preference for a keeper who could use their feet well and get involved in the play. 

Dorus De Vries was recruited due to his ball-playing capabilities but that did not, it turned out, make him ideal for Celtic in practice.

Celtic Way:

Straight away the contrast in Gordon's play is obvious. Under Rodgers, Gordon played more passes, fewer long passes and received the ball more often too. His passing percentage increased (partially due to naturally playing shorter passes and not hoofing it as often) while his save percentage was as excellent as ever. 

In the end, Gordon won his place back and was a key component of a side that cut through the Scottish game with ease. Despite never really appearing fully comfortable as a sweeper-keeper, he found a manageable balance in the role while on the pitch. Who's to say Hart can't find that, too?


Of course, no keeper is faultless in a system that puts so much pressure on them with their feet. Gordon made mistakes under Rodgers, and the likelihood is whichever keeper plays under Postecoglou will make them as well at some point. Even the best in the world still don't get it right every time.

The key, though, is doing what's expected consistently in the face of intense pressure and that includes making basic goalkeeping decisions that, at the moment, appear to be beyond Barkas and Bain.

However, it has not escaped my notice that most of the traits in the 'positives' column are subjective ones based on what Hart was capable of at his peak.

That speaks to the leap of faith inherent in moving for a goalkeeper widely considered to have been on the decline since at least 2016. 

The Celtic board are, in essence, hoping for the same outcome they got with Forster and Gordon: a career renaissance. That seems an awfully risky hat-trick to be chasing, but it could be worth it.