SPL

Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart wanted to end footballing career on his own terms

By Sports Desk February 23, 2024

Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart has revealed he wanted to end his playing career on his own terms and could not imagine finishing it at any other club.

The 75-times capped England international this week announced his decision to retire at the end of the season, when he will be 37.

The former Manchester City player rejuvenated his career after moving from Tottenham in the summer of 2021, adding a clean sweep of Scottish domestic trophies to his full collection of English major honours.

And he wants the focus on his future to quickly switch to his attempts to continue that success as Celtic bid to rise to a strong title challenge from Rangers after losing top spot in the cinch Premiership last weekend.

Hart said: “I have loved every moment of being here, myself and my family, it’s been everything and more than I wanted it to be, and I will be forever proud that I represented this club.

“The most pleasing thing for me is a lot of the people here respect that I come and I give my all. Whether it’s good, bad or indifferent.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of times when people wanted me in, wanted me out, but that’s the life of a goalkeeper. But ultimately you are respected as a person, and welcomed into a really special club.

“I will be 37 at the end of this season. What direction the club wants to go, whether I fitted into that, I wasn’t too sure. We didn’t even have that conversation.

“I certainly wasn’t interested in going and trying to play anywhere else.

“So I felt, right, I wanted to be strong and fit and ultimately happy. If there is such a thing, I feel I am in that place, and I feel like it’s the right time.”

Hart, who made his first-team debut for Shrewsbury 20 years ago, added: “I looked at what age I’m going to be, I’m aware of all the stresses I have put myself through body-wise all through my career.

“I didn’t really want to wait and be told. And with the cycle of the three years I have managed to do here, I wasn’t interested in playing anywhere else. It just felt right.

“I felt like I know and I wanted the club to know because I have a lot of love and respect for this club and I want the club to move forward to bigger and better things.

“No-one needs the speculation of whether a regular starter is going to be offered a contract, sign a contract, whether he is looking elsewhere. That’s a needless narrative when all of us are on the same page so I thought it was important to address it.

“There will be a couple of days of noise but after that no-one will care. ‘Oh right, Joe is retiring at the end of the season, Celtic need a goalkeeper, but right now he is there and he is going to be head down and fully fighting for this special club’.”

Hart’s decision gives manager Brendan Rodgers one less big call to make as he plans for what appears to be a crucial summer transfer window.

“I think we are very clear on what we need to improve on within the team and the squad,” said Rodgers, who welcomes Alistair Johnston and Cameron Carter-Vickers back from injury for Sunday’s trip to Motherwell.

“But certainly with Joe going, that really quickens that up in terms of needing to bring in someone for next year.”

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