Conor Hazard pulled off two incredible saves in Celtic’s penalty shoot-out win over Hearts on Sunday in the Scottish Cup Final to complete the Quadruple Treble. The 22-year-old admitted how he couldn’t have imagined starting the Final a few months ago but savoured the moment as he became a Hampden hero for Celtic.
Hazard is a bright prospect for Celtic but a No.1 goalkeeper is needed for 10IAR. The Northern Ireland Internationalist is still in his formative years as a goalkeeper and it appears that the manager trusts him enough to play him in the final but with Ibrox and a 10IAR do-or-die on the horizon as well as looking at next season, Celtic need to get an established No.1 goalkeeper integrated into the first team.
Hazard showed flashes of indecision and his decision making for two of the Hearts goals could be called into question but no doubt these can be remedied through experience, he has the tools and is highly rated at Celtic and within the IFA. In particular, from set pieces he looked a bit lost and we saw that given Hearts scored twice from these. He is a hugely promising goalkeeper with promise and talents that mean he could be a mainstay in the Celtic team.
With that said, he isn’t the finished article, he has played just three games with the Scottish Champions and before that he has had loans to the Championship. Had there been a balanced defence, there would be an easier transition for Hazard but given the astonishing lack of composure at the back at times on Sunday, Neil Lennon will know that he needs a calming, commanding No.1 goalie.
A fascinating read into Hazard’s strengths and potential can be found here thanks to Scottish Football Analysis.
Naturally, the first person that you would assume would be fit for the job is the man that has No. 1 on the back of his jersey, the £4.5m arrival from AEK Athens, Vasilis Barkas. For one reason or another, Barkas hasn’t settled at the club. He has struggled to make any positive impression and criticism has been planted at his door. He may be looking to the January window to seal his own escape from Celtic as he has failed to live up to the billing of an International goalkeeper.
The man that would answer Celtic’s SOS is, of course, Fraser Forster. The Englishman decided against a return to Celtic in the summer, instead opting to compete for the Southampton No.1 jersey. Alas, he failed and now hasn’t played any competitive football since March.
Neil Lennon has signed Forster four times already in his career – all with Celtic – and will know his qualities inside out. The ex-Newcastle goalie is also familiar with the vast majority of the dressing room so could seamlessly transition into the team at Ibrox – which as it stands is a must-win.
Forster, 32, has eighteen months left on his deal with the Saints so may wish to see out the remainder of his contract but will surely at his age want to play as much football as possible. Especially when you consider the injuries that he has suffered so far throughout his career.