There Is An Argument That Celtic’s Joe Hart Has Had A Better Season Than Jack Butland.

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On 21 May, Alan Morrison, of Celtic By Numbers, caused something of a social media meltdown in Sevconia as he made the amazing claim that Jack Butland has been successful in only two areas; in generating hype about them getting a big fee for him and in convincing their fans that their average keeper is some sort of world beater.

The figures Morrison presented are pretty damning of Butland and the hype that has surrounded him.

In fact, according to the figures, available from StatsBomb, Butland was actually being outperformed, at that time, by seven other keepers in the league when it comes to goals saved – the stat by which you measure a keeper when the ball is heading to the net and he personally prevents that.

Let’s talk about how that stat is calculated. If I’m understanding it correctly it is a ratio of how many shots a keeper saves compared to shots hit against him.

Say you have three shots coming at you in a game and you concede two. That’s a 33% saves average for that game. If the opposition keeper has eight shots hit at him and concedes two his average for the same game is 75%. This is how those numbers are arrived at.

This, alone, would be fatal to the hype if the media wrote about it at all.

Celtic has conceded fewer goals than the Ibrox club in the league this season, 30 to their 32, and that stat is remarkable in and of itself when you consider that, especially at Ibrox, teams barely cross the halfway line to attack them.

Particularly notable is how few times Hearts managed to test him over the six encounters where they were up against him this season … only at Tynecastle did they make any kind of sustained attacking effort, and of course they put three by him.

His record against half-decent sides is actually woeful.

Aberdeen, a bottom half club, still managed to score five against him in the league.

We managed to put the ball past him no fewer than nine times, eight of them in the league and once in the cup.

In the last dozen games of the league campaign, he had two shut-outs, one of them, hilariously, against Naismith’s team.

And whilst his record of 25 shutouts beats that of Joe Hart, who managed 17, that is not the most important statistic in determining his overall effectiveness, as StatsBomb’s much more interesting numbers dramatically prove.

Butland conceded nine goals in four Champions League qualifiers.

He conceded nine more in the Europa League, and when you bear in mind the low quality of the opposition he faced in that competition that’s fairly damning. He conceded nine goals in the five post-split fixtures, and some of his mistakes in those big, big games are just being glossed over.

The ball which dropped to Idah yesterday was not the only time this season that he flubbed one of those either, and it might not even have been the most disastrous from their point of view. He did it against Ross County for the second goal in their amazing 3-2 win and he let the third roll under him.

Not the performance of someone on the cusp of an England call up.

Hart has had an amazing last few weeks of the season, becoming one of the lynchpins of the side in that time. He has four shut-outs in the last dozen games, as his confidence grew along with that of the rest of the team. I talked about how we started to click after we upped our average goals per game from two to three or more … the same period saw Hart dramatically improve his own performances at the same time, and he finished much stronger.

Hart only started to draw praise from the media as the season wound down, when it became clear that he was performing a starring role in our push to the finish line, and Morrison confirms that in the early part of the campaign Butland had him beat on the stats … but it’s about how you end, not how you begin, which really matters over a season.

Over his time here, Hart has delivered for us over and over again, and although we all know that he has weaknesses in his game he has shown us glimpses of his past greatness in these final months. I cannot say enough good things about him, and he’s been critical to the success we have had in this time. He departs with a hatful of medals to augment his outstanding career total. I cannot imagine him making a mistake like the one Butland made yesterday.

Whether or not you think Hart had a better campaign than Butland overall is largely irrelevant anyway as it turns out.

Butland concedes an alarming number of goals where the ball is coming right at him and he’s the only one who can keep it out.

Let me repeat; by that metric, on the day Alan Morrison published that stat, seven keepers in Scotland had a better average than him, which, to me, is the definitive proof that he is nowhere near as good as the hype around him.

And you know what?

These are the things that half decent football scouting teams will be most interested in, not what The Daily Record thinks or what the Ibrox fan forums are banging the drum for. All talk of a £20 million plus transfer fee for this guy is for the birds; nobody is going to pay that kind of money for a keeper who is, statistically, the guy with the eighth best saves ratio in the country.

That was a horrendous mistake he made yesterday and in front of the cameras and in the context of how big that was there was no hiding from it at all. But it’s only one mistake of many, and apparently the press has been too busy hyping this guy to notice that.

Clubs with a half decent analytics department will not make that mistake.

This is the kind of thing they exist to check.

None of them will be terribly impressed.

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  • Jim M says:

    Any big fee sevco think they’ll get for Butland is pie in the sky, they’ll be lucky to get 5 million and that’s more than he’s worth, they’ve still to pay roughly that amount for 1 player they got on tick , no wonder their looking at the Motherwell keeper, he’s free .

  • A says:

    Rumour is his agent negotiated a minimal get out clause as part of joining on a free

  • Tony B says:

    Yes. Buttwipe is average at best. He is being hyped up by the SMSM in order to maximise the transfer fee for the cash strapped zombies.

  • harold shand says:

    It’s the way every commentary team and pundit waffled on when we scored acting like he’s never conceded a goal all season

    Crazy hype for the big sale and much needed funds

    A la Bassey & Patterson

  • Joe McQuaid says:

    Let’s be honest wouldn’t we all love to see Butland in goals for England at the Euros and Denmark putting 2 or 3 past him…maybe the SMSM are playing a double bluff here!
    It struck me yesterday that Butland was less comfortable with the ball at his feet than Joe Hart – that is a big part of why he will be less attractive to clubs in the EPL. Layer in the profit and sustainability rules and you can forget about a +£5m fee.

  • Sophir Johnstone says:

    Said it weeks ago his tendency to palm the ball back into the danger area was obvious to anyone.the hype from pundits has actually been scary how little they understand

  • Roonsa says:

    I have no idea if this guy is any good or not. I only ever watch that lot when they play us. Or highlights of games they lose or drop important points in. As such, I usually only ever see him at his worst.

    But the stats aren’t great are they?

    And, thankfully, any club that has “twenty wan mullyin” to spend on a keeper will base their judgement on that rather than anecdotal evidence from biased fans and media journalists.

    • frank says:


      I only ever watch that lot when they play us. Or highlights of games they lose or drop important points in. ?? I’m exactly the same, I could NOT watch them any other time.

  • Paddybhoy67 says:

    The argument could also include the fact that Joe has double the medals too.

  • Ryan Ellis says:

    Wait till you see Jackshun’s effort the day, delusional doesn’t cover it lol.

  • goodghuy says:

    Butland is a good keeper no doubt about it, they always seem to have good keepers, Chris woods , goram and klos etc, they seem to always pick them. Joe Hart has had a terrific career, he has been a phenomenal signing for us, a big personality and just a cracking guy, Ive always admired him, when he was at City also, as I watch a lot of the EPL. I only hope we can get another good goalkeeper, it will be hard to get a leader like Joe though, you can have all the talent in the world, but it’s the mentality you need also.

  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    “There is an argument that that Celtic’s Joe Hart has had a better season than Jack Butland”

    He Has –

    He’s won the two biggest honours in The Scottish Game while Butland has the consolation of The Mickey Mouse Medal…

    Happy summers 2-1 and all Glasgow goalies !!!

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