Manchester City finally call a halt to errors as Joe Hart is dropped
Move confirms he is no longer seen as a safe pair of hands
Feeling the pressure: Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart who has been dropped for today’s trip to Norwich
Joe Hart has just discovered what an unforgiving business elite football is. Less than 18 months after being crowned a Premier League champion he is dropped for Costel Pantilimon for Manchester City’s match with Norwich City, with his place as the England number one in this World Cup year now seriously threatened.
Hart faces a long road. Goalkeepers are not generally rested as any outfield footballer might be, and are always reluctantly dropped. In deciding whether to back or discard a player who has become a liability, the manager must consider how much an already fragile confidence will be affected by either choice.
Stay with Hart, as Manuel Pellegrini, the City manager, had done despite the catalogue of mistakes already recorded this season, and the risk was that a further howler might do irreparable damage.
Stand him down, as he has now done, and the spotlight further intensifies in the Chilean’s official confirmation that Hart is no longer the pair of safe hands he once was.
Scott Carson, Paul Robinson and Robert Green offer three recent illustrations of how a goalkeeper’s lot can fall dramatically from the upward trajectory to a battle to avoid career disintegration.
All three made critical errors when on England duty, and Roy Hodgson will again face questions regarding whether he should retain Hart as he prepares the side for the friendlies with Chile and Germany in a fortnight.
With Fraser Forster, John Ruddy and Ben Foster unproven at international level, Hodgson’s judgment could go right to the heart of how England will fare in Brazil at the World Cup.
Ray Clemence, the former England, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur number one, is aware of the jeopardy to his long-term prospects Hart now encounters.
“What we have to be careful of – and we are terrible for it in this country – is getting on somebody’s back and destroying their confidence,” Clemence told TalkSport.
“I’ve seen it happen to Paul Robinson when that ball bounced over his foot [playing for England] in Croatia, and Scott Carson was never forgiven for the Croatia game at Wembley [where defeat cost England a place at Euro 2008]. It just affects them and some don’t recover from it. I don’t want to see that happen to Joe. He’s a wonderful lad, a great character and he has got a strong personality.”
On the question of whether Hodgson may follow Pellegrini and replace Hart for England, Clemence says: “Joe Hart is the best goalkeeper England have got at this moment, but he is going through a difficult time, and I’m pretty sure he would be the first to admit that. We all go through bad times and you need people to stand by you and have confidence in you.”