The knowledge that Joe Hart is set to retire at the end of the season has meant there has been a natural focus on the veteran goalkeeper going out on a high. For that to happen, though, the Celtic number one says that another senior member of Brendan Rodgers’ squad may well be a key figure.

James Forrest put in a hugely impressive cameo from the bench on Saturday at Hampden, scoring within minutes and showing the threat he still has to offer from the wing, prompting questions around why the 32-year-old has been used quite so sparingly this season.

Hart feels though that Forrest may well have a pivotal role to play on the field yet in the final six fixtures of the campaign as Celtic eye up a league and Scottish Cup double, while his influence behind the scenes is beyond question.

“I just wish his goal [against Aberdeen] was the winner,” Hart said.

“He has been exceptional. I couldn’t think any higher of him as a person.

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“James sets the standards. He’s been out of squads this season, and he has just trained brilliantly every single day.

“We’ve had injury problems, the club have made commitments to other players with contracts and things like that, that’s life at the top end.

“But James Forrest hasn’t flinched. James Forrest has been exceptional every time he has been called upon.

“He is exceptional in training, he came on and really calmed us down, he was brilliant on Saturday.

“I just wish we could have finished the game at 2-1 in 90 minutes and then it would be James having the conversations afterwards.”

Forrest hasn’t always been the darling of the Celtic support, but history is likely to be kind to the winger, who is now one of the most decorated players in the club’s history.

If he can add another couple of medals to his collection between now and the end of the season, he will only add to that legacy, and Hart says that the players are aware that this is the time when heroes could be made.

“It could,” he said.

“Everyone is fit apart from the obvious issue we have with Daizen (Maeda), but hopefully we are going to get him back before the end of the season.

“Everyone else is fit and available, and everyone wants to do their best to put us in the best place possible.

“Nothing is done. We’ve just got to take care of our business and focus on the next game.

“It is a huge opportunity this week to get a good training week into us and go into a huge game at Dundee.

“There’s a long way to go. Nothing is done, we’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us, but we’ve put ourselves in a good spot and we’re feeling good.”

That being said, Hart isn’t ignoring the deficiencies in the Celtic side that were laid bare at the weekend, which he says they will be doing their utmost to eradicate even at this late stage of the season.

It is to their credit, he argues, that they have managed to find a way to dig deep and put themselves in such an advantageous position, despite the campaign as a whole being far from perfect.

“We’ve had warning signs all season,” he said.

“There’s no excuse. It’s not been a perfect season, but we’re digging in.

“At the right moments we are playing our stuff, but there are also moments when the games are tight and tough and we are still managing to do our thing.

“We will see, we have set it all up but there is still plenty of work to do.”

On a personal note, there is no escaping the topic of Hart’s final bow, and he is delighted that – fitness permitting – he will now take that curtain call at the national stadium in the Scottish Cup Final.

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He was relieved that his penalty miss in the shootout against Aberdeen ended up a mere footnote to Saturday’s thrilling contest, and he is hoping that the afternoon of May 25th against Rangers will be a day to remember at Hampden, and a fitting way to call time on his career.

“It could be, hopefully,” he said.

“I’ve got a date now. I’ve got a date that I know is going to be the final game that I am available to be involved in.

“Who knows what is going to happen in the next five weeks? Hopefully I’ll be fit and in form and picked to play.

“It’s all set up though.”