The clamour for a new, first-pick keeper, has been intense, with this faction drawing encouragement from the speculation a new no.1 is on Brendan Rodgers - still lengthy - shopping list for deals the club are looking to conclude in the final week of the transfer market. Owing to his storied career, the 36-year-old is too long-in-the-tooth, too been-there-seen-that-done-it to take the hump over the possibility that a new no.1 could arrive. Celtic has grown to mean too much too him across a hugely successful two years - “it is a very special club to be at and represent, I love it here” - to be other than the best professional and team-mate he can be in the event that serious competition for his place arrives in the coming days. To add to a department already also boasting Scott Bain and Benjamin Siegrist.
“The club wants to improve all the time. If the club feels it needs strength in every department then of course that’s going to happen,” Hart said, in proving philosophical over the prospect of another goalkeeper being signed. “That’s the thing when you’re at clubs like this and involved in competitions like we are. I’ve been in clubs before where goalies have come in. Of course, we welcome and embrace, we’re a 25 or 26-man squad. However this transfer window plays out, we’ll see. We’ll look to win as many games as we can and move forward.”
It is the loss of Celtic’s last game - a 1-0 defeat at Kilmarnock that sent them spinning out of the League Cup he has helped them bag for the past two seasons - that has dominated the build-up to their hosting of St Johnstone this weekend. A rare serious misstep of recent times, perspective goes out the window in such circumstances - especially with Rodgers recently returned to the club - owing to the demands of a support who had witnessed their club snaring 17 of the previous 21 domestic honours. Hart feels every game holding so much store is one of the energising elements of being a Celtic player, but draws the line when asked if the cup exit felt like it had precipitated a crisis.
‘I’d definitely say they’re your words… I’d imagine that is the perception but we’ve got a huge responsibility,” he said. “We’re not just footballers, we’re Celtic players and we’ve got a responsibility to show in these times – I say these times, it’s one game. I’d like to think you could interview me off the back of a 10-game winning streak or off the back of a bad defeat – it’s going to be the same message, same attitude, same focus. We’re not perfect. None of us claim to be. But we’re going to work damn hard to be at our best to represent the shirt and win games in the style that takes people off their feet. There’s no better feeling. And I’ve felt it a lot here.”
The Celtic squad did not feel the instant wrath of Rodgers following their Ayrshire upset; with no dressing room dressing down at Rugby Park. Instead, Hart believes his manager communicated his message through a laudable cerebral approach that allows him to get into players’ heads, as opposed to blowing them off. “It’s different how you necessarily have your head blown off,” he said. “There’s more than one way. If you get shouted at, you get shouted at and then it’s over. But I think getting people to learn and understand why things happened, that’s the modern way. Brendan is very good at that. He’s a great thinker on the game and someone who understands there is almost an opportunity in this for us to get better.”