Joe Hart insists he still feels the same excitement heading in to his seventh season of Champions League football as he did the first time he heard the competition’s iconic theme on the pitch a decade ago.
The 36-year-old will surpass 50 appearances in Europe’s elite club competition if he plays in all six of Celtic’s group matches this season – starting with the trip to Eredivisie champions Feyenoord on Tuesday.
The former England international made his Champions League debut in Manchester City’s draw with Napoli in 2011, and has since chalked up 45 outings across spells with his former club and the current Premiership holders.
However Hart is refusing to take his longevity for granted as the Hoops look to improve on their disappointing recent record in the competition.
“It still means everything. It s truly a joy to still be a part of this competition,” he said.
“If you had asked me if I still would have been doing this at my age, then I probably would have struggled to give you a definitive yes.
“It’s the competition you grow up watching as a kid. The excitement, the music, that doesn’t change, I’m still that kid, they are special nights.
“The speed of the game is electric, they hype is real, it lives up to it every year. There’s amazing football being played, the way the battles are on the pitch, it is always amazing to be a part of.”
Celtic’s opponents have hit a purple patch in front of goal after an indifferent start to the campaign, shelling six beyond Heerenveen last weekend to take their tally to 17 scored in their last three games.
Spanish giants Atletico Madrid and Italian side Lazio make up the Scottish champions’ group and Hart is well aware of the expectations of the Parkhead faithful having failed to record a victory at this stage of the competition since manager Brendan Rodgers’ first spell in 2017.
“We’re ready to go at it. The two previous seasons I’ve been here and we’ve played in Europe both times, we felt we’ve been as prepared as we could be,” he said.
“We’ve got a hungry group of players, we’ve all got to link arms and just go for it.
“It’s really clinical both ends. The competition is always tight, it is about taking your chances, defending your box, it sounds like quite a simple formula, but if it was that simple, everyone would do it.
“I love being here, I love being a part of the team I am a part of and I can’t wait to continue that tomorrow night.”