It’s easy to blame the goalkeeper when a team concedes a goal – after all it is their job to prevent them from going in. Indeed ‘keepers are increasingly under pressure to perform, especially in England as the leagues are so competitive and every goal matters. The bright lights that shone for Joe Hart earlier in the season have recently transformed into a spotlight whereby his every move is stalked and every mistake pounced upon. After recent blunders against Leicester City and Aston Villa, both resulting in goals and culminating in poor results Joe appears to be on the end of a barrage of criticism on a level he has never previously received during his short career thus far. Even City boss Roberto Mancini has called on Hart to improve his concentration levels amid continual speculation in the press that City manager is looking to bring in Gianluigi Buffon as a replacement (Mancini has dismissed this as speculation and says he has no plans to sign a keeper). But Joe is a big boy (standing at 6ft3in) and any criticism he receives it is believed that he is confident enough to bounce back.
To those who don’t know Joe, his clear self-confidence in his ability could be misconstrued as arrogance. Having made his debut for Shrewsbury at the age of 17 it was apparent that he was a talented young man and his career has gone from strength to strength since then, culminating in the World Cup in South Africa last year – where he was desperately unfortunate not to play. Joining City in 2006 under the then manager Stuart Pearce and the guidance of goalkeeping coach Tim Flowers, Hart was seen as one for the future yet made his debut for the Blues in October 2006 in a 0-0 draw with Sheffield United because of injuries to senior ‘keepers Andreas Isaksson and Nicky Weaver. His successful debut was followed by loan spells at Tranmere and Blackpool making a combined total of 11 appearances.
|Joe Hart, after a great start, has seen his form dip in recent weeks
A successful loan spell at Birmingham last season raised his profile and has led to him becoming first choice for club and country, beating competition such as Shay Given and Robert Green respectively. Making 36 appearances for the (Birmingham) Blues, he was voted their player of the year and he also earned a place in the PFA Team of the Year and a nomination for PFA Young Player of the Year. Following this success he has established himself in the City side and his man-of-the-match performances, against the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, have single-handedly saved City valuable points this season. Football is a fickle game however, and it appears that Joe now knows the meaning of the old cliché that “form is temporary and class is permanent”. City fans will be praying that his recent form is only temporary and that Joe shows his class once again, sooner rather than later.
At just 23 years of age he is very young for a goalkeeper and his achievements to date prove that he has the potential to be one of England’s, and Manchester City’s, greatest ever ‘keepers. With a bit of luck he has another seventeen years at the top level – if Brad Friedel and Edwin Van der Sar are anything to go by. It’s clear that Hart is no ‘average Joe’.