AS the former assistant manager at Rangers, Andy Watson may not be overly enthused about the prospect of Joe Hart joining Celtic, but that’s only because he is so convinced about the abilities of a goalkeeper he worked with back at the start of his career at Birmingham City.

Watson was working under Alex McLeish at St Andrew’s back in 2009 when they managed to snare Hart on loan for the season from Manchester City, with the youngster going on to impress so much that he was voted the Premier League Goalkeeper of the Year.

That may have been some time ago now, but Watson can’t speak highly enough of the man that Celtic manager Neil Lennon is considering as his new number one should a permanent move for Southampton keeper Fraser Forster fall by the wayside.

For Watson, Hart is no consolation prize though, and he is in absolutely no doubt that the former England number one would be a wonderful signing for the Scottish champions, having both the goalkeeping ability and the mindset required to succeed at Celtic Park.

“Joe was great for us at the time,” Watson said.

“You could tell he was a top goalkeeper right away. He had a great desire to win and his qualities were fantastic.

“We had a really good goalkeeping coach with us at the time, a guy called Dave Watson who worked with him at Birmingham and also at the national level as well.

“He was a young goalie and a young man, but he had a strong personality and he knows what is required to win. He had a desire to win, that’s for sure.”

Hart may have struggled for first-team football of late at Burnley, but Watson doesn’t feel that Hart will have any less to offer now at 33 than he did all those years ago during his stunning season with the Blues.

“He’ll still have so much to bring to the table,” he said. “You don’t lose your ability, that doesn’t leave you, and he’s been at the very top level.

“Joe will want to do well, and he will want his back four to do well. He really buys into being part of the team.

“He’s not a loner, he knows the importance of the team, even though we’re going back a number of years now that I worked with him.

“He’ll be a good addition for Celtic or for any squad for that matter.”

The arrival of Hart, who gained the last of his 75 England caps in a friendly against Brazil in 2017, would also be a coup for Scottish football as a whole in the eyes of Watson, who thinks that many people may have short memories when it comes to the stopper’s achievements.

“When you think about what he has done in the game of football, you’re not going to get much bigger goalkeepers than him coming about I don’t think,” he said.

“He’s a Premier League winner, has over 70 caps for England, so that tells you everything about his quality.

“And over and above all of that, he is a genuine gentleman as well. He’s fantastic. He has a touch of class about him.

“I’m not talking Joe up, because he doesn’t need me to, I’m just talking about how he genuinely is and he’s a lovely man.

“He’s good around the dressing room, he’s nice with people, and he has a strong personality around the dressing room, so he’ll be a wonderful signing if they manage to pull it off.

“He’s a top man, fantastic, a lovely bloke, and he would certainly be a great addition to the Celtic squad, no doubt about it.”

Should Hart eventually end up in Glasgow next season, Watson himself is hoping he may join him back in Scottish football after a three-year spell as technical director of former Bolton, Wigan and Reading goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi’s football academy in Oman.

The experienced 60-year-old has enjoyed the challenge of working in the Middle East, and is set to return there once he is allowed to travel again, but he admits he is open to discussing the chance to move a little closer to home.

“I’m currently sitting in Cambuslang, so I’m waiting for things to open up so I can get back over there,” he said.

“If the opportunity to come back to Scotland or the UK opened up though I would jump at it in a minute.

“I’ve been there three years now, so while it’s been a great experience, it’s a long way from home.

“I’ve proven that I can go somewhere like that and not be fazed by it, I’ve been able to adapt and to work well there.

“It’s difficult getting back in anywhere, even with a reasonable CV, so it’s all about trying to get an opportunity.

“The coronavirus situation obviously hasn’t helped as well, everything is at a stand-still, but I’d like to get home at some stage if I can.”