Last summer saw Celtic’s first and second choice keepers leave Parkhead; Fraser Foster and Craig Gordon.
Foster had finished a successful loan spell with the club and Gordon left for free having failed to agree terms on a new deal.
At the start of the summer transfer window manager Neil Lennon seemed fairly confident of securing a return of Southampton’s third-choice keeper Foster. However, talks fell through as it was revealed he wanted to stay down south and fight for his place in the Southampton side. I can understand Foster’s desire to play in the Premier League and compete against top-class sides. I also think he had every chance of securing his place as their number one keeper due to his standout performances in the Europa League and Betfred cup.
However, this left Celtic with a major problem heading into the new season and the search had to begin to find a new keeper. After being linked to many goalkeepers, Scotland hero David Marshall included, Celtic signed Greek international Vasilis Barkas from AEK Athens for a reported fee of £5 million-plus add-ons. Barkas who made his debut in the 1-1 draw against Killie put pen-to-paper on a 4-year contract.
The Greek goalie’s back was against the wall from the start as expectations were riding high following the success of Foster. He received mixed reviews from the fans and seemed to be losing favour with Neil Lennon. He was dropped after back-to-back defeats to A.C. Milan and rivals, Rangers and was replaced by Scott Bain, who had been the Hoops 3rd choice before the summer. Bain was drafted in for Celtic’s game against Aberdeen, but he failed to capitalise on this opportunity as he conceded three goals with the game finishing 3-3.
In what might have been as a desperate measure, Celtic introduced Conor Hazard during their disappointing Europa League Run. The 22-year-old had come through the Celtic Youth Academy and had been honing his skills on loan spells with Falkirk, Partick Thistle and Dundee. After a short run of games, including a cup final, he failed to impress at the level expected for a club like Celtic.
So, three keepers, but no obvious first choice. So, who really is Celtic’s number one keeper?
Let’s do a comparison based on goals conceded. This season, in 36 games, Celtic have conceded 46 goals, not a great record for the Champions.
Starting off with Conor Hazard, he has played 7 times this season, conceding 8 goals while between the sticks, meaning on average Hazard concedes 1.14 goals per game.
Last of the three keepers to feature this season is newest signing Vasilis Barkas. The Greek has played 20 times this season, letting in 21 goals. Barkas’ average goals conceded per game is 1.05, the lowest of all keepers.
Given this, why is Barkas not Celtic’s number one keeper? At the end of December in the pre-match interview against Dundee United Neil Lennon referred to Barkas and said, “he has come in as number one and I want him to play”.
Unfortunately, Barkas was forced out of the squad just after because he had to self-isolate. However, he has only played one further game before being replaced again by Scott Bain. Less than one month later, in his pre-match interview ahead of the Hamilton game Lennon stated that Scott Bain would continue in goals for the time being.
This constant switching around of keepers is not benefitting anyone; the keepers, the defenders and the team. The season is over for Celtic this year, but we can use this time to develop our number one keeper, give him consistent game time, allow him to develop an understanding with his defenders and build his confidence and maybe, just maybe, he will earn his place as our number one for next session and find his way into the hearts of the fans.
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