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Cammy Bell: Battle of the Keepers could prove a deciding factor on outcome of the title

© Rob Casey / SNS GroupCeltic’s Joe Hart and Rangers compatriot McGregor will have a big say on the destination of the Premiership trophy
Celtic’s Joe Hart and Rangers compatriot McGregor will have a big say on the destination of the Premiership trophy

Cammy Bell believes this year’s title race is set to come down to a battle of the gloves – with the outcome deciding whether Allan McGregor retires at the end of the season or not.

The former Rangers and Dundee United goalkeeper made his prediction ahead of the meeting of two of his old employers at Tannadice and the visit of Dundee to Celtic this afternoon.

While expecting both Allan McGregor and Joe Hart to end the day as winners, he argued the reaction to the former’s errors in Rangers’ draw at Ross County just goes to show how crucial the position is to the teams.

“Keepers are going to make mistakes at some point, it comes with the territory,” said Bell.

“In Allan’s case it was up at Dingwall where he was possibly at fault on two of the goals.

“It was just a bad day at the office, something that can happen to all of us. One bad performance in 200 is not a bad return.

“The amount of games he has played error-free is ridiculous and I think the reason we are talking about his mistakes this season is because they are so rare for him.

“The key thing is that he bounced right back with a great display in the Old Firm derby and has been great since.

“I actually never doubted it would affect him because Allan’s mentality is fantastic. He is one of the best goalkeepers anywhere in that respect.”

© SNS Group
Cammy Bell in action for Dundee United

What makes the run-in so intriguing, Bell contends, is that rivals Celtic now have an exceptional No. 1 of their own in the shape of former England man, Joe Hart.

“Keepers will have a huge part to play in determining who wins the title – it is that tight,” he said.

“They still have two derbies to play and an unbelievable performance from either keeper could win the game and, through that, decide who is becomes champions.

“That is how important they are, they win you games.

“I know strikers are the ones who score goals and get all the plaudits but for me a goalkeeper is the most important player in the team.

“The good news for Celtic is that Joe has been fantastic for them.

“His experience, his mentality, everything Rangers have with Allan, Ange Postecoglou now has with Joe.

“They are in a good place in terms of the position just now and that goes to show what a great signing he was.

“Celtic had a time when they were chopping and changing but they have now found a keeper who is consistent.”

Ryan Edwards targets Dundee United double over Rangers

Bell himself retired from playing aged just 34 years old in December 2020 after being hit by injuries earlier in the year.

While McGregor is still going strong this season at 40, he is at an age when continuing speculation about when he will retire is inevitable.

“It will be up to Allan whether that happens but listen, the title race might determine what he does,” said Bell, who now works as a pundit.

“If they win the league he might say, ‘Right, I am going out on a high’.

“That is what he will want to do. Probably people will look at it and say he had the opportunity to do that last season and he carried on.

“I think if he wanted to do the same again this summer he could because his performances have been phenomenal.

“I think body-wise he is fine, it will be more his mental side, whether he wants to continue.

“You can see he is still passionate. He loves the game and you can see the passion coming through him and on to the pitch.

“It will be a decision that will be made later, I am sure. They will be talking about it behind closed doors but I can’t see anything announced until the end of the season.”

Will title success or failure sway Allan McGregor over any possible retiral plan? (Pic: Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Even should he retire, Bell does not expect to see Rangers attempting to sign Dundee United keeper Ben Siegrist.

“For me the fact Jon McLaughlin has signed a new deal closes the door on that one a bit,” he said.

“Siegrist would have been one to go for if they were looking for a back-up, a No. 2.

“But if Allan McGregor retires they will be looking either to sign a new No. 1 or someone who can very much challenge Jon McLaughlin.

“While Jon is a very good keeper, he has not consistently played at the highest level for long enough.”