PAT BONNER knows that without the faith of Billy McNeill, he would never have the long and distinguished career at Celtic that he eventually enjoyed. The former Celtic goalkeeper admits that there were times, particularly as he took his early faltering steps into the first team, that his manager could easily have pulled him out of the firing line.

McNeill persevered though, and 642 appearances later, Bonner would like to think that he repaid his confidence handsomely.

One thing he knows for certain is that chopping and changing your goalkeeper is rarely a recipe for success, and that is why he is struggling to get his head around current Celtic manager Neil Lennon’s decision to once again relegate Vasilis Barkas to the bench in favour of Scott Bain.

For Bonner though, the correct course of action would have been to stick with young Conor Hazard, who played in the Scottish Cup Final win over Hearts and saved two penalties in the shootout. The 22-year-old wasn’t trusted to play against Rangers at Ibrox though, and but for the other keepers being forced to isolate following the trip to Dubai, would likely not have been seen since.

When asked what he made of it all, particularly in relation to Barkas being dropped for Wednesday’s game against Hamilton, a bemused Bonner said: “I don’t know, I really don’t know.

“Neil admitted there that [Barkas] hasn’t settled, which is a big thing to say after all these weeks.

“I know the conditions are different now. I know it’s very difficult. I speak to players about being away from home and coming to a new country in the current climate. We are all struggling with it a bit and it must be really difficult for somebody coming to a new country and a new club and being in these conditions.

“But, at the end of the day, they paid big money for him. That’s what you are paying for – for someone who will come and settle in and adapt quickly. Neil has admitted he hasn’t adapted or settled in, which is disappointing.

“But for me it’s very difficult when they keep changing goalkeepers around. Personally I love to see young goalkeepers coming through.

“I would love to see them giving a chance to Conor to see what he could do over the next three or four months, just to see how he does and then make the big decision in the summer as to whether they need to go after someone again.

“The problem is, that if you don’t play Barkas and he doesn’t get the opportunity to make saves they paid £5m for, then you are never going to know what he might be able to do, and that’s the dilemma they have now. You can’t keep swapping your goalkeeper around.”

Perhaps it is the parallels to his own early Celtic career that makes Bonner sympathetic to Hazard’s case. Like Bonner, Hazard too has made some mistakes in his early appearances for the club, with the keeper arguably at fault for two of the Hearts goals at Hampden prior to his shootout heroics.

“I came into the team and had a wee run at it because Peter Latchford was injured,” Bonner recalled. “But I could have been dropped very easily during those early days.

“The thing is that you have to build up a period of playing games to get your decision making right and get your experience up. After that you start living on that. But to need to find games where you become the main player in the game and take advantage of that.

“If you build up a couple of them like Fraser Forster did and Craig Gordon did and I did in the past then you are allowed to make some mistakes. But if you haven’t got that in your back pocket as such then you are always under pressure.

“Unfortunately from the point of view of Barkas he hasn’t been able to do that at the moment. And if you keep leaving him out of the team he will never do it.

“But you can’t keep going playing Conor one week and Barkas another. It doesn’t help the back four either.

“Nothing against Scott Bain. I just like to see a young goalkeeper come through. I think David Marshall might have been the last one.

“So why not? Why stay here if you are not going to get an opportunity?

“I would just like to see him playing there for a couple of months and then make a decision in the summer as to whether he is going to be good enough.

“You could have a goalkeeper you haven’t paid any money for for the next four or five years.’

“I just think I would be looking to the future.”