Joe Hart’s not pulling punches in this straight talking interview – refreshing?

first_img“The new Gillette Fusion ProShield has an added lubrication strip before the blade, causing less irritation by shielding you while you shave” – Joe Hart, ambassador for the new ProShield razor. Follow Gillette on Twitter @gilletteUK BELIEF, STRUCTUREMedia angles and agendas often surround the job of England manager, too, yet Hart is fulsome in his praise for Roy Hodgson. “A lot of organisation, a lot of belief,” he replies when asked what Hodgson has introduced in his four years in charge.“He has really tried to create a team environment, which is not easy at international level – but we definitely feel like we’re a unit. He tries to keep instructions as simple as he can, so that we can adhere to them and work together. He puts a lot of faith in the lads. He’s constantly reminding us that we’re a good team and we just need to show it.”Sport asks if Hodgson is a different character to his predecessor, Fabio Capello, and Hart’s smile briefly disappears – whether at the question or at any lingering memories of his former manager, we genuinely can’t tell.“Yeah, evidently – they’re two very different people; different cultures,” he says. “But at the same time, they both speak ‘football’, which is the same.”Has Hart ever seen Hodgson lose his rag? “He’s a passionate man… As much as he is a genuinely nice man – there’s no denying that – he’s the same as us when we’re on the field. He wants to win; we want to win. We expect a lot of each other and he expects a lot from us. So, sometimes situations happen in football, but that’s what happens at the top level.”While Euro 2012 had its high points, however (England topped their group, beating Sweden and the Ukraine, before losing to Italy on penalties in the quarters), the World Cup clearly did not go to plan. MESSI AND THE PHENOMENONWhen Sport spoke to England’s captain Wayne Rooney back in 2013, he was keen to point out that Champions League football was a useful learning curve for international football. Playing regularly outside the UK, against top foreign opposition, getting used to coming up against different tactical styles and atmospheres: all of this prepared you for what you were likely to face in a major tournament with England.Rooney’s theory bodes well for Hart, who has put in a number of special performances in recent Champions League seasons for Manchester City. In March 2015, after a string of saves restricted Barcelona to a single goal at the Nou Camp, Lionel Messi gushed of Hart post-match: “He was phenomenal, he stopped everything. We have to congratulate him on a great game because he’s a fantastic goalkeeper.” Barca coach Luis Enrique added: “The score could have been a rout. Hart was incredible.”This year, Hart saved a penalty from Zlatan Ibrahimovic as Manchester City bested Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter finals. The 6ft 5ins goalkeeper than conceded just one, viciously deflected goal over the two legs of City’s semi-final exit to Real Madrid.“I’m improving all the time,” says Hart. “That’s my job: to try and grow as a player. I’m only 29 now – so hopefully coming into my peak – but I’ve got a lot of years behind me; experience of all different situations. I’m trying to use as much of that as I can.”Gianluigi Buffon seems to be of the opinion that England’s number one is pretty much at his peak already. In 2015, the great Italian goalkeeper was quoted as telling the press that “you won’t think of a better goalkeeper in the world” than Hart.A wry smile appears on Hart’s lips as the quote is put to him: “I don’t know about that. I’m aware of how angled questions can be towards you! He’s a great man; a great goalkeeper. Very classy, and someone who’s a massive idol of mine; a player I really look up to. But we were playing them [Juventus] at the time and I respect his opinion, of course – but I’m also aware of how questions are put to him. It’s difficult to sometimes answer them.” 5 5 5 Joe Hart believes there is one reason to go to the European Championship and he explains more here WORLD CUP TROUBLES“It didn’t go well, but it’s pretty simple [what went wrong]: we lost the first two games – two games we could have easily won,” says Hart. “I don’t think Italy or Uruguay would have complained if we had won those games. But we didn’t.“What we’ve done really well since then is: we’ve got on with it. We’ve won all of our qualifying games, we’ve done well in some of the friendlies – and we’ve not made those friendlies easy, purposely to prepare us well for the next tournament. That’s kind of the beauty of football. Whether you win, lose or draw, there’s always another game.”Some may look at that as a forgiving assessment of a World Cup campaign where England went out at the earliest possible opportunity (then drew 0-0 with Costa Rica as a finale). But part of Hart’s mental armour appears to be a kind of bullish positivity. What’s for certain is the mood towards England is surprisingly brighter than the bleak forecasts people had after that early exit two years ago.The spectacular form of Leicester City and, at times, Tottenham this season has brought unexpected bonuses for England. The likes of Jamie Vardy, Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Danny Drinkwater have forced their way into the reckoning.“Yeah, it’s a really enjoyable place to be,” says Hart of an England squad that has benefited from a fresh injection of players. “We’ve got some really inspirational talent who are doing well at their club level, doing well on the international scene – and I believe they can do something special.”So what constitutes a successful Euros for England? “Well, I go there with the intention of winning it,” says Hart. “People are going to have their opinions on what’s good enough, but we’re going there to win it – that’s the only reason to turn up.“I believe that this England team has the potential to do that. There’s no point in going if we don’t.”Whether you find the keeper’s straighttalking style enjoyable or a dangerous portent for future egg on England faces, it’s at least refreshing to see a player unafraid to put his opinions on the line. Expect Hart to have his mettle tested again on the pitch this summer. We get the feeling he wouldn’t have it any other way. 5 5 This interview appears in the current edition of Sport magazine, the fantastic free weekly publication packed with great stuff. They’re on Facebook (here), on Twitter @SportMagUK and you can download the free iPad app here.“Is that Vinnie?” Joe Hart smiles as he pauses to glance at an old copy of Sport with his Manchester City captain, Vincent Kompany, splashed across the cover. “The master… the politician…” he intones, cheekily adding to the description of the Belgian defender on the magazine’s cover.Our interview with Hart happens before injury has ruled the unfortunate Kompany out of Belgium’s Euro 2016 squad. But, on a rainy day in Manchester (‘liquid sunshine’, locals calls it), the England goalkeeper is in an assured mood regarding his own country’s chances at the tournament.Kompany is the key leader for his club side, but who fulfils that role for the England national team right now?“We have loads of big characters, lots of important people,” Hart insists. “Obviously Wazza [Wayne Rooney] is our voice, he’s our captain – and the manager. They’re our main two, and the rest of us just try and support them as best we can.”Paradoxically, when the England national team struggle, they are accused by half the population of being overrated and high on their own hype – and by the other half of freezing on the big occasion, of not living up to their talent. Yet Hart insists that the England dressing room is far from a nervous or intimidated place before a crunch international match.“We have a mix of cool heads and more vocal characters, but everyone’s quite up for it,” he says. “We’ve all been in big games. We’re all comfortable in that situation. It’s our job, at the end of the day. We focus on the game and try our best to win.”last_img

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