In this era of football mercenaries and big clubs showing little loyalty perhaps it was too much to ask – a manager new to English football entrusting a club’s longest serving player who also happens to be England’s number one goalkeeper with a leadership position in the squad. Manchester City it seemed had a few constants but one constant in particular despite the era of flux around the Premier League – a steady pair of hands between the pipes whose critics often were media that simply had an agenda because Joe Hart was England’s undisputed top keeper.
But instead what has happened is it is clear Pep Guardiola has made a decision about Joe Hart and seeking to send him packing. From where I sit as a long-time supporters of the Blues, this is an unfortunate decision by a new manager. But in today’s football, loyalty counts for little and as the Blues neighbors Manchester United have recently demonstrated, even the most successful clubs historically have quickly become little more than a repository for mercenary players and managers.
The treatment of Joe Hart is perhaps without equal in the recent era of Manchester City. Never before has a player that has been with the club so long been treated this way with constant media speculation and focus about his future. It is something entirely new in the recent history of the Blues to allow a player to twist in the wind in this manner.
While Hart’s distribution isn’t the strongest, his record as a shot stopper is second to none among English keepers, and perhaps the best in all of English football outside of David De Gea and maybe Hugo Lloris. But it is Lloris’ style of football, Pep Guardiola seeks, a keeper comfortable with the ball at his feet and willing to charge off his line to join the play – these areas of weakness for Hart.
But Hart’s strengths which beyond shot stopping are organization of the back four as well as a keen reading of crosses seems to have been overlooked in this entire discussion.
It’s also sad that Hart’s service to the club hasn’t been factored into the decision it appears to dump him. But Guardiola showed at Bayern he wasn’t afraid to dump long-time club servants like Bastian Schweinsteiger, so at Manchester City where the club culture is different and the hierarchy has given him more of a blank check, it can be surmised that this sort of move should have been expected.
Our club above all should be based upon a certain ethos of loyalty to those that have served us well. If Hart’s skills had diminished I could understand the course the Blues appear to have chosen a little better but right now despite the howling critics on Fleet Street in the British press because of England (not Manchester City) performances, I see no discernible evidence that Hart has declined as a keeper. On the contrary, I believe he has been stronger than ever the last two seasons as Manchester City’s backline has fallen off the pace considerably. But for whatever reason, this decision has been reached and made.
From my perspective as a long-time Blues supporter and watcher I can respect the move to dump Hart in favor of another keeper that presumably comes from continental football – just don’t expect me to embrace it.