THE RED BULLETIN: Being a goalkeeper is possibly the hardest position on the pitch, make 10 saves and you’ve done what was expected of you, one mistake and you’re a liability – how do you cope with that?
JOE HART: It’s obviously a position where a lot can go wrong! But that’s really what I love about the job – all the bad things and the challenges are the things that draw me to it. I love it.
You’ve been playing professional football for over 10 years now - how have you changed or matured as a player over that time?
Playing in the same team for a long time [Hart joined Man City in 2006] and knowing the way that the players play, I think I’ve definitely learnt the importance of developing relationships early – finding the best ways to work with my defenders to get the most out of the little bit of talent that I’ve got.
What made you want to be a ’keeper? Who was your major inspiration?
I always liked watching [England and Arsenal goalie] David Seaman and [Denmark and Man United ’keeper] Peter Schmeichel when I was growing up – they are two of the greatest goalkeepers of all time and really inspired me to play in that position. But really I always just liked being in goal and diving around and getting covered in mud!
You seem to enjoy interacting with the fans both on and off the pitch – is that something you’ve grown more comfortable with?
It’s something that I’ve always really enjoyed. Fans are so important – both home and away. I appreciate that when we go away from home that we’re in someone else’s house and however they want to treat you that’s how it is, but especially in the Premier League the fans are great. I’ve never really taken anything to heart – you know, I play in a position where some not necessarily great things are going to be said to me and where potentially they could put me off. I’m obviously focused on the football in hand but you can’t help but hear certain things and listen to certain chants. But I genuinely do enjoy that side of the game and it’s something that really adds to the whole atmosphere for me.
What’s the funniest interaction you’ve had with the fans?
To be honest the Head & Shoulders chants are the funniest things I’ve heard. When the adverts first came out I didn’t know how people would take them – I thought maybe people thought I was taking myself too seriously. But we’ve just tried to have fun with it and I’ve always had great relationships with away fans about it. I think they appreciate that I see the funny side of it.
With more and more younger players coming up and challenging for places, does that spur you on to keep improving your own game and retain your position as first-choice?
Yeah it’s a great thing for the team. There are plenty of people that want to be in my position but one of those people is me! That’s why I’m constantly driving myself. I realise it’s not necessarily a long career and I want to make the most out of the opportunities I’ve been given. That’s what I love about the position that I’m in and especially the club that I’m in at the moment and the country that I represent – they’re two teams that have got no real limit; our success just depends on how we apply ourselves.
Keepers take a fair bit of punishment on the pitch… How do you feel when you wake up the day after a game? What hurts the most?
The day after a game, I’m generally nursing different aches than the rest of my team. The outfielders are going to feel the muscles in their legs a lot more than I am, because they’re doing a lot more running around. Being a goalkeeper, I receive quite a lot of impact injuries during games and dead arms and dead legs from various hits, things like that. I’ve taken hits that have cut my eye quite badly and have woken up the next day looking like a boxer! But so far my body’s been pretty good at dealing with stuff like that to get me ready in time for the next game. I’m only human and I can’t lie – there’s definitely some days that I’m not in the mood for someone smashing a football as hard as they can at me. But getting in the way of that is my job.
Who’s the best player you’ve played against?
[Argentina and FC Barcelona striker Lionel] Messi is the best player I think I’ve ever played against. His consistency is phenomenal, as is the way he manages to literally dictate a whole game on his terms. He’s just a very special player.
Who’s the best manager you’ve ever played under and what makes a good football manager?
I wouldn’t like to say one particular manager – I respect my current manager enough, and I’m very happy at the moment. A good football manager has to have tactical awareness, know the game inside out and most importantly get to know their players, which is crucial to be able to get the most out of them. That’s a top manager for me – whether it’s Sunday league or Champion’s League.
What’s been your biggest achievement in your career so far?
I’ve been lucky enough to win a few trophies in my career so far, but playing for my country is a huge thing for me. Also, playing as many times as I have for Man City with the growth that they’re going through at the moment – to be part of that is something I’m very proud of and that’s something that I want to keep pushing. What have I got left to achieve? To keep improving. I’m definitely at an age where I need to now start managing what I’ve got – I can still improve and I feel I’ve still got years ahead of me, but staying in good physical condition is key. I want to grow and evolve and be a bigger part of both teams and I want to win everything that we take part in!
England has qualified without losing a game for the 2016 European Championships after a disappointing World Cup. How had the team changed?
In the couple of tournaments I’ve been involved with as part of the England squad, the preparation has always been very good. We just haven’t quite performed when it’s come to it. In hindsight it’s easy to say we could have done this or that but now is the time to convert everything we’ve learnt into results. Everything’s in place, we’re going into Euro 2016 in good form and we’re ready to do what we’re definitely capable of.