Joe Hart on Celtic’s Champions League Rollercoaster

Joe Hart yesterday discussed Celtic’s recent Champions League exploits and believes that the team isn’t too far away from being able to successfully compete at the highest level in Europe.

Celtic’s recent re-emergence into the Champions League wasn’t unfamiliar territory for Hart, as he experienced a few tough fixtures for Manchester City as they found their feet in the competition, with opponents like Barcelona and CSKA Moscow giving them a rough time.

Consequently, Celtic’s man between the sticks wasn’t surprised by the rocky start the Bhoys had to Group F. Instead, it’s part of the journey to acclimatise to European football. Joe Hart was speaking at yesterday’s Media Conference ahead of tonight’s final home match in the Group stages.

“When we first started at City we weren’t full of Champions League experience. Maybe a little bit more than we have here. But it’s not about the club itself. Celtic does and will belong here. You have to look at the squads and who has played at this level.”

 Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart reacts during the UEFA Champions League match between Celtic FC and RB Leipzig at Celtic Park on October 11, 2022 (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

“We are relatively new to it. That’s not an excuse, we certainly don’t hide behind it and the club doesn’t expect a bedding in period. You want to be at the top, you want to be fighting and beating the best.”

“I don’t think it’s anything apart from falling the wrong side of a couple of results. I don’t think anyone who’d been to the games, opposition managers and so on, would have been surprised if we were going in to match day five with a chance of winning the group or sealing the second place.”

“There’s a huge difference from being in a game to actually winning a game at this level. That’s been evident here. We’ve been in all four games and put in strong performances. There’s just been some small moments where experience has helped these sides manage through difficult patches a little bit better than we have and been more clinical when they’ve had moments of being on top.”

“It’s fun being part of this competition but you always want the ultimate goal. It’s tough. The semi-final is the furthest I’ve got and I enjoyed that run. You just need to live in it rather than set any boundaries or targets.”

“What’s the point when the sky’s the limit? You are part of a team that wants to get bigger and better.”

Joe Hart of Celtic warms up prior to the UEFA Champions League group F match between RB Leipzig and Celtic FC at Red Bull Arena on October 05, 2022 in Leipzig, Germany. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Speaking about Ange Postecoglou’s ‘We never stop’ mantra, Hart believes this philosophy is perfect for the Hoops to improve to the level they need to be to compete in Europe. He continues…

“It’s pretty powerful, it really is. He gives us a lot of belief and we work every day to play a certain way with a certain energy. Why compromise? It’s 11 against 11 plus the subs. We believe if we play to our principles we have as good a chance as anyone.”

“Look, we would much prefer to emerge [from the group]but at the same time if we were getting the victories we would want to feel we had done it with what we are trying to do and what we are working on. I think that gives us a better sense of direction and purpose. We are all in this for the long term, trying to create something.”

“The manager is not trying to create something here for any other reason than doing it this way will bring success to this club.”

Ange Postecoglou’s game style sees the Hoops play a very attacking game. Committing players forward often leaves teams undermanned in defence, but Hart dismisses the claims that Ange’s attacking play leaves the bhoys vulnerable, despite already conceding 10 goals in the four matches in Group F.

“We are slightly vulnerable but any team with any way of playing is exposed,” Hart admitted. “Even if you were to park eight people behind the ball, the pressure is going to increase and increase and increase. We try to do our pressure and our eight-man defending really high and get the job done.”

“The transition in the Champions League is a tough one to play against because of the speed and intelligence of teams that you are playing against. But we have also seen a low block unpicked many, many times.”

Ange Postecoglou during the UEFA Champions League  football match RB Leipzig v Celtic FC on October 5, 2022. (Photo by RONNY HARTMANN/AFP via Getty Images)

“Teams can get really hurt playing the low block. There are teams that have specialised in it over the years, Atletico Madrid spring to mind. But for them to do that, that’s not something they just do for the Champions League.

“Just like we work, they would work on that every day. That’s their identity. That’s what they do. That’s what they believe in and that’s why they get results. That’s why us doing what we do constantly we feel will get us results.”

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