Most fans were surprised to see Conor Hazard starting between the posts on Thursday against Lille and then again against Kilmarnock. Imagine how Vasilis Barkas and Scott Bain felt!
While there is a clamour for Celtic to get Fraser Forster back on loan in January to build a wall at the back, there may be a simpler option for Neil Lennon or whoever is in charge at the time. Although it’s early days since Barkas signed and over time he may well build or regain his confidence and become a great keeper, time is not on his side this season.
Signing other keepers has been suggested, but who knows what you’d get and whether they’d need time to settle as well. Conor Hazard is at least very well known by the club, it’s clear what we’d get and perhaps a better assessed risk than a random purchase.
Seeing Hazard leapfrog Barkas and Bain on Thursday and again on Sunday certainly provides food for thought. The move was well received by Celtic fans and it was nice to see them send positive messages to the young keeper on social media.
Does this mean we will see more of Hazard in upcoming games or was it a temporary change? He didn’t actually have a lot to do on Thursday but there was a calmness, a confidence, a great save and all round he looked more secure and in control than either Barkas or Bain. He is tall, strong and looked the part. Some fans made the point that he even dived to make sure he had an attempt on goal covered, we’ve been more used to seeing a flapping or rooted to the spot keeper of late.
Sunday’s win over Kilmarnock saw more of the same from Hazard. It may not have been highly spectacular but it was just what the Hoops needed at the back. Confidence, assurance, a decent save here and there. Not to mention the first clean sheet in 9 games.
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The young Northern Ireland keeper may be a simple answer to the goalkeeping issue, if Forster is out of the question. He’s had decent match experience with several spells out on loan with time at Dundee recently. An article in The Scotsman last weekend reminded of the way David Marshall broke through for Celtic and stole the first place ahead of two other keepers. And with praise due to the writer Alan Pattullo, he did suggest Lennon should start Hazard against Lille.
All the matches coming up are important. The Glasgow Derby exceptionally so, whoever plays in goal for that surely has to be playing in the games running up to it. Lennon’s selection on Sunday against Kilmarnock could be a huge clue. It’s definitely a huge warning message to both Barkas and Bain – they are in a three way fight for a place, not two. And even if Forster did return. Both could have slipped way out of the picture in terms of a bench place for cover.