Heart-to-heart

“We want to win every competition we’re involved in. Manchester City has a squad full of strong people, with talent, passion and determination. We feel we are equipped to win trophies, and we don’t want to finish second to anyone,” says goalkeeper Joe Hart in this interview. By Ayon Sengupta.

Charles Joseph John (Joe) Hart, just 26, thought he had long left his competitors behind, to lord over as England’s undisputed No. 1 custodian. However, the goalkeeper hardly had a perfect season the last term, with the then club manager, Roberto Mancini, blaming him for Manchester City’s defeat to Real Madrid in a Champions League group stage game. Hart, out of his line, was also made to look unintelligent by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s wonder-goal in an international friendly and recently England manager Roy Hodgson warned him about his national team spot after a mistake in a 3-2 friendly win over Scotland.

Self-critical, but not one to wallow in self-pity, Hart says he has learnt from these mistakes and assures a better show from himself as well as his City team-mates.

uestion: What are your expectations from the upcoming season? There have been a lot of questions regarding your personal form…

Answer: Everyone at Manchester City is under scrutiny and I am no different. For lots of reasons last season didn’t end up the way we wanted it to, both for me personally and for the team. The challenge for us as players is to learn from last year, and grow stronger and better for it. That’s what winners do, and I’m confident we can improve.

What should be Manchester City’s realistic goals this term?

We want to win every competition we’re involved in. Manchester City has a squad full of strong people, with talent, passion and determination. We feel we are equipped to win trophies, and we don’t want to finish second to anyone.

What do you think went wrong for City last term and what are the areas you need to reinforce and improve to win the League?

It’s difficult to pinpoint an actual area, but as players, we all know that overall, we could have done better. But it wasn’t like it was a complete failure of a season either. We reached a Cup final, and only one team in the League got the better of us. We proved on a number of occasions that we could match the best team in the League, but we didn’t have the consistency we’d had the year we won the League.

Tell us something about the coaching style of Manuel Pellegrini and how different is it from the previous managers who have managed you?

Every manager has a different style, and we are learning the way of the new manager. It’s gone very well in pre-season; everyone is buying into what he is trying to do. And things look good as well with the new signings, people are settling in quickly and we’re looking forward to the new season.

What has been your word of advice for the new arrivals?

No suggestions are really needed. They’ve come in, settled quickly and shown in training sessions that they have the hunger and ability to make a difference to us. I’ve been impressed with all of them, and they all bring something different to the squad. It’s going to be a competitive environment at Carrington, and I’m sure that they are going to make their own individual contributions to improving us as a unit.

If you have to rate the Leagues across Europe, where will EPL feature?

I think the Premier League is probably the best league in the world. Any team in the league can beat any other team on their day. The teams near the bottom still have the quality to beat the ones at the top, and that doesn’t happen in many leagues in Europe, or around the world. Obviously not every team can win the league, and there are five or six teams near the top, who will feel they can challenge for that ambition. But I think the strength throughout makes the Premier League a different challenge.

What does football mean to you?

Well, I guess it’s my life. It’s something I love to do, and I always try to remember how lucky I am, to be doing something I love every day. It’s a privilege.

If not a footballer what would you have been?

That’s difficult to say. People sometimes talk to me about cricket, because that’s a sport I also enjoyed when I was young. But I took the football path, and it’s one which I’m glad to have made.

PROFILE Club: Manchester City Games for City: 164 2012-13 EPL games: 38 Goals conceded: 34 Clean sheets: 18 Country: England Caps: 33 Goals conceded: 27 Clean sheets: 16

Career high: Winning the Premier League title with Manchester City in 2012.

Career low: England’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy in the quarter-finals of EURO 2012, with Hart failing to stop any Italian effort.