“I’ve been pleasantly surprised the whole way,” Joe Hart on his time at Celtic

As Joe Hart approaches his retirement from playing, The Celtic Star along with several other fan media outlets had the chance to speak with the legendary goalkeeper. Joe Hart answered all our questions brilliantly, telling us whether he will become a coach indue course, and talked about his strange love for the Livingston away fixture, this is everything that Joe had to say to the Celtic fan media a few nights ago…

Q: A thank you on behalf of the fans for not over-celebrating yesterday [vs Aberdeen at Hampden], consoling the opposition, to show a bit of class etc. because that’s what Celtic’s all about.

Joe Hart:I don’t think I’ve been in many penalty shootouts but I’m well aware of what it takes to get to that position. It’s a special moment but at the same time, it’s an important moment. I think Aberdeen were superb, they really were. They were on their last legs. They went through the pain, but somebody’s got to lose.”

Q: Are you interested in going into goalkeeping coaching?

Joe Hart: “No, I haven’t taken any coaching badges. That was quite a conscious decision. I know that the coaching line, or the management, is ingrained in a lot of people but it doesn’t necessarily do it for me. I want to help, I want to give back, but I feel like there are different ways I can help. I’ll always be available to Celtic if they ever need to lean on me for anything I can help with. I’ve made the manager aware of that, I’ve made the club aware of that but physically, coaching a specific team isn’t something I’m looking to do.”

Q: Are there any standout moments that come to mind in a Celtic jersey?

Joe Hart:  “I hope there’s a few more moments to come, I really do. Last year was pretty special. Stood at the end of the season with all three trophies, that was a special day and something that I really enjoyed but genuinely, there’s been so many, I’m a guy who lives in the moment. Yesterday [at Hampden]was a special moment, it was a bit of a ride but like I say, hopefully, I’ll be able to have this conversation in a couple of months and I’ll have a few more to pick through and decide from.”

Q: When it came to Celtic, was it about first-team football coming towards the end of your career?

Joe Hart: “No, it wasn’t just necessarily about first-team football. I’ll be honest, I’ve said it before, at the point of coming here, I didn’t know if I wanted to carry on in professional football anymore. That’s not because I was feeling sorry for myself, not because I didn’t think I was capable, I just didn’t think there was a place for me to do what I love to do. And what I love to do is play football for someone I can give my all to.

“You know, football is a business and I probably felt that for three or four years when I was dotting around and kind of being at clubs and kind of not. I was probably willing to leave it. I thought ‘you know what, I’ve done everything I need to do and been accepted for as long as this’. But then the opportunity to come to a club like this was slightly unknown but what I did know really appealed to me.

“It’s a club that you play for, you don’t work for, and you integrate, and I wanted that opportunity. Especially because I have a young son who hasn’t necessarily seen me play much football. When he was about three years old, everywhere we went, people knew who we were, but he didn’t know why. I wanted to dance in front of 60,000 and try to show him what I can do.”

Q: What advice would you give yourself looking back?

Joe Hart: “Nothing. Don’t overthink it. I’m not big on looking back, I wouldn’t give myself any. I think that’s been the greatest thing about being here, learning and growing into it.”

Q: You’ve had a long career but if you could bring one player from one previous squad you’ve played with into this current Celtic squad, who would you bring?

Joe Hart: “You know what, I wouldn’t, and that’s just because I’m so protective of my group. The teams that I’m in, I love them. Especially being the age that I am, I’d feel wrong saying a player because I’d be isolating a position in the team. I’ve been lucky enough to play with some mega players throughout my career and some really good people.”

Q: Not Balotelli then?

Joe Hart: “It wouldn’t be him! If I had to be pushed, it wouldn’t be him. But no, I probably couldn’t say because I care too much about the boys around us. We’ve got so much opportunity coming up in the next couple of weeks and we’re going to rely on everyone, and I want everyone to be as confident as possible. So, I’m not going to say.”

The Celtic Star: How do you feel now that the season’s coming to an end and your retirement’s approaching?

Joe Hart: “A question that I’ve been asked a lot, but I don’t feel any different. I feel like for potentially a couple of months or maybe even a couple of years, I’ll still feel the same after I’m finished. I’m so programmed to be in the moment that I’m in that I don’t think I can just turn it off. I think it’ll take a long time. I think I’ll still feel like a player in two or three years time. Maybe, I don’t know. I’m not willing to ease off. I want to be 100% and then deal with the madness after.”

The Celtic Star: Are you confident you can etch yourself into Celtic history one last time?

Joe Hart: “I’m going to try. I’m going to do everything I possibly can and leave it all on the line. That’s what I’ve done my whole career and sometimes it’s worked, sometimes it hasn’t.”

Q: You came into Celtic having played at a lot of big clubs. Is there anything that, in hindsight, that’s taken you by surprise by joining Celtic?

Joe Hart: “Not by surprise, I’ve just been pleasantly surprised the whole way. The boys that I spoke to, anyone associated to Celtic, when I was trying to get up here, the main line that I kept hearing was ‘you don’t know what it is until you’re there’. And about the fourth time of someone I really respect saying that I was like ‘you know what, I’m just going to stop thinking and do exactly that. I’m going to find out for myself’.

“I do strongly remember the Champions League anthem. When I was at City, we had some bad relationships with UEFA so for a lot of my time, the Champions League anthem was booed, and you’ll hear it booed now for reasons. I think we were right, I think we were hard done by, there was something with Yaya [Touré] and with Moscow. But then, the Champions League anthem when it first got played when we played Real Madrid, my whole body shook. Electricity went through me, and my eyes welled up. The pure excitement and passion of the place all the time just makes me smile, makes me happy and makes me grateful to be here.”

Q: Was there a specific moment that you can recall during your time at Celtic when you really started to fall in love with the club?

Joe Hart: “I think being part of the rebuild after Covid, in terms of the allocations in the stadium. It was 30%, then 60%, then when we finally had 100% in the stadium, knowing that could’ve been filled so many times over was really humbling. And I can’t get away from Livingston away. For everything it is, it’s a plastic pitch, it’s a tough game. But the fact that there are 4/5 Celtic fans and the atmosphere is electric. This great place [Celtic Park] speaks for itself, but Livi away will live long in the memory, really fondly as well.”

Q: Does Celtic top Manchester City in terms of a mental feeling?

Joe Hart: “I got a lot of love and respect everywhere that I’ve been. They’ve always been different points in my life. Even the moments that were tough, they were still moments that I lived and enjoyed. I’m never going to compare because like I said, I’ve got too much respect but mentally, it’s still a ride. You see someone very confident and assured in what they’re doing but I’m just a normal guy. I understand I’ve got a lot of weight on my shoulders, sometimes second guessing myself, sometimes feeling like I can’t do wrong, I’m all of it so mentally and emotionally, I’ve loved that ride and I enjoy that feeling. There’s been a lot of highs and I’ve loved them.”

Jessica Elliott

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About Author

I'm a student journalist and Celtic supporter. I'm delighted to have been recently appointed women's football writer for The Celtic Star, where the coverage of the Celtic FC Women's team has been incredible and unrivalled over the past three seasons.

1 Comment

  1. Terrific, Jessica. Great read.

    Make sure you get a follow-up interview in a couple of months when it’s all done and he can reflect properly on ‘the madness’, as he puts it. Be interesting to hearJoe’s perspective on the Glasgow derby insanity.