Hart’s self preservation…via Italian Job

Joe Hart has – in the words of the song from the iconic ‘Italian Job’ movie – been forced to join the ‘self preservation society’ by Pep Guardiola.

The new City boss has blown the ‘bloody doors off’ Hart’s Manchester City career, as the deposed keeper is left with little option but to join Torino on a season long loan deal to Serie A.

A final farewell - Joe takes the applause from the Etihad crowd on his 348th City appearance, against Steaua Bucharest last Wednesday night.

A final farewell – Joe takes the applause from the Etihad crowd on his 348th City appearance, against Steaua Bucharest last Wednesday night.

Pep’s pedigree as the pre-eminent manager in world football isn’t in doubt; therefore neither should his judgment calls be questioned, especially less than two months into his tenure at the Etihad.

But, and there’s so often a ‘but’, it doesn’t make Joe’s departure any the more regrettable for the majority of City supporters.

Of course the 29-year old has his well documented shortcomings with his distribution, his comfort levels with the ball at his feet and, more recently, a propensity for being vulnerable to shots low down to his left.

Affairs of the Hart - Joe's going to Italy, but he'll always have a place in the hearts of the City faithful.

Affairs of the Hart – Joe’s going to Italy, but he’ll always have a place in the hearts of the City faithful.

Hart is still one of the best goalkeepers on the planet, it’s just that he doesn’t fit Guardiola’s playing style – the fabled ‘sweeper keeper’ – where quickness of thought and deed sets up attacks, rarely surrendering possession.

It makes it all the more curious that the present day guardians and purveyors of the Pep ‘brand’ at Barcelona, were fulsome in their praise of Hart when they were combatants in the Champions League.

Phenomenal, Fantastic and Incredible - the words used by Barcelona's finest to describe Joe Hart.

Phenomenal, Fantastic and Incredible – the words used by Barcelona’s finest to describe Joe Hart.

Lionel Messi – remember Joe saved his penalty – described Hart as ‘phenomenal’ and ‘fantastic’, Andres Iniesta praised Hart as ‘outstanding’, while Barca boss, Luis Enrique went so far as to say that City’s longest serving player was ‘incredible’.

Who in sky blue, will ever forget the one man Hart-stopping performance in the Catalan capital in 2015, when City lost 1-0 but it could so easily have been by five or six, had it not been for Joe’s brilliance.

Jumping for joy - Joe saves Lionel Messi's penalty but it wasn't enough to help City overcome Barcelona in 2015.

Jumping for joy – Joe saves Lionel Messi’s penalty but it wasn’t enough to help City overcome Barcelona in 2015.

How ironic that the Champions League, so often the Achilles Heel of City under Mancini and Pellegrini, provided a showcase for all that was best in Hart’s goalkeeping repertoire.

When Borussia Dortmund swarmed all over Bobby Manc’s blues at the Etihad in October 2012, it was a virtuoso Hart performance that saved the day, albeit a last gasp Balotelli penalty ultimately bagged the point.

Joe versus the Germans - Hart was outstanding as Borussia Dortmund swarmed all over City in the Champions League.

Joe versus the Germans – Hart was outstanding as Borussia Dortmund swarmed all over City in the Champions League.

It was virtually Joe against the Germans as he thwarted Gotze, Lewandowski and a certain Ilkay Gundogan, in a mesmerizing goalkeeping display.

And, as we reflect on Joe’s 348 first team appearances, a third truly stellar showing springs to mind, down at White Hart Lane when Hart made a return to City from a season long loan at Birmingham.

Having been given the nod by Mancini over Shay Given, Hart was literally unbeatable as Spurs dominated in a thrilling 0-0 draw.

As a loan spell in Turin now beckons, it’s difficult – nigh on impossible – to see Joe making such a glorious return for a second time.

Hart's on Fire - Joe was too hot for Spurs when he took on the role as City's No 1 keeper from Shay Given.

Hart’s on Fire – Joe was too hot for Spurs when he took on the role as City’s No 1 keeper from Shay Given.

Pep’s brilliance is already evident with City winning all five games this season, displaying a tempo and intensity rarely witnessed under the more languid rule of Manuel Pellegrini.

Hart’s replacement, Claudio Bravo, is rightly regarded as among the world’s goalkeeping elite and is the archetypal ‘Pep’ keeper.

Pep and Claudio - a match made in 'sweeper keeper' heaven.

Pep and Claudio – a match made in ‘sweeper keeper’ heaven.

The 33-year old Chilean, captain of his national team and the most capped player in his country’s history, is a truly class act and, in all fairness, superior to Hart on many fronts.

He’s led Chile to consecutive Copa America tournament wins in 2015 and 2016 (twice beating Sergio Aguero’s Argentina in penalty shoot outs in the final.)

Contrast that achievement with Hart’s inglorious personal displays, as England’s Three Lions failed to raise a meow, let alone a roar, at Euro 2016.

BRAVO Claudio - City's new keeper celebrates after Chile defeat Argentina to win the Copa America 4-2 on penalties.

BRAVO Claudio – City’s new keeper celebrates after Chile defeat Argentina to win the Copa America 4-2 on penalties.

Nonetheless, the irony is clear to see, Bravo has left Barcelona and the trio of Hart admirers, Messi, Iniesta and Enrique, to replace the man so lauded by the Nou Camp perfectionists.

There’s a sad realization at the Etihad that Hart, despite being a superb keeper – you don’t win two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and four Golden Gloves without an abundance of talent – is a square peg in a round hole under Guardiola.

Happier times - Joe was a two-time Premier League Champion with City and an all-time favourite with the fans.

Happier times – Joe was a two-time Premier League Champion with City and an all-time favourite with the fans.

In an age of ridiculous transfer fees and obscene player wages (Joe has been handsomely rewarded during his time at City) there is, nonetheless, a certain emotional investment from the ‘terraces’ in a long-serving player who had no wish to leave the club.

Joe was instrumental in City’s renaissance in recent years, with perhaps the most enduring image being an ecstatic Hart in his No 25 shirt careering round, arms outstretched like a madman, as Sergio did the business at 93:20 on May 13th, 2012.

Iconic Image - Joe erupts with emotion as Sergio slots home the 93:20 winner to clinch City's first title win in 44 years.

Iconic Image – Joe erupts with emotion as Sergio slots home the 93:20 winner to clinch City’s first title win in 44 years.

Time moves on but surely to goodness there will always – ALWAYS – be a place in the heart of every Manchester City supporter for ‘Super Joey Hart…’

Arrivederci Joe, good luck and good fortune.

 

By David Walker

Dedicated to the memory of another departed ‘Joe’ – Joseph Colin Walker – the finest man I’ll ever know, who died this day, 20 years ago. A brilliant journalist and the kindest, most loving, considerate and compassionate of men, with a wickedly dry sense of humour. It was an honour and a privilege to call him ‘Dad’. Love you Pa 😉

 

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

8 Comments

  1. August 30, 2016  5:06 pm by Richard Cooper Reply

    So the inevitable is happening
    Won't go into Joe's good points and bad points but to me it poses a few questions
    1. Was he always on his way out with the apppointment of Pep ?
    2. Was he given a chance to adapt to Pep's vision of goalkeeper or did Joe have that touch of arrogance to think he didn't have to adapt ?
    3. Seems unlikely, but could he return to City if his time in Torino makes him more of a Pep European keeper?
    On the same theme it seems that Nasri, Mangala and Bony are also going on loan no doubt to be sold and never to return. This loan system is good to move players "on" but there is certainly a cost involved !!

    • August 30, 2016  6:23 pm by David Walker Reply

      Absolutely - I can a feel a Txiki blog coming on - Transfer Mastermind!

  2. August 30, 2016  8:23 pm by Mark Reply

    Loved the lad to bits. But my passion for our great club will always be stronger. Pep came with a plan, and unfortunately Joe was never part of it. I'm hoping this strange loan deal, sees him improve his levels of distribution levels. But still can't see him ever being good enough to dispose of Bravo or even being happy to settle for number 2 spot. Good memories aplenty of our Joe

  3. August 30, 2016  8:28 pm by Doug Henshaw Reply

    Will be long remembered by City fans saved us in many a game. But what's done is done, shame Pep didn't fancy Joe but I trust Pep 100%. Would of liked Joe to stay & possibly prove Pep wrong but not to be. So good luck Joe once a blue always a blue.

    • August 30, 2016  9:38 pm by David Walker Reply

      We are as one - as we so often are on City matters Doug. CTWD.

  4. August 31, 2016  1:17 am by Susan Reply

    Great writing as always David and all the more passionate with your own Joe inspiring you x

    • August 31, 2016  7:53 am by David Walker Reply

      No ordinary Joe! It's a cliché but I miss him every single damn day. Thanks Suzy x

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

City’s South American conundrum

Literally as close as A to B, sharing a tiny border crossing and producing world class footballers, Argentina and Brazil have a profound influence on the fortunes – or misfortunes [...]

It’s a dog’s life for Pep

Having failed to tame some eager terriers from Yorkshire, Manchester City must now restrain a breed of pedigree poodles from France as they strive to ‘Winalot’ in Pep Guardiola’s d[...]