Cast your mind back to Sunday 24th June 2012, England have valiantly held out against Italy and now face a penalty shoot-out. For once England are reasonably confident while Italy have a slightly better record in Penalty shoot outs than England they have a chance. In goal for England that night is a young Joe Hart full of confidence following Manchester City’s last ditch title win. Hart is extremely confident and is just the right side of arrogant to come across assertive and thoroughly competent.
There looks to be every chance that Hart will save a penalty here, his sledging of the penalty takers seems to put off Montolivo who misses to the left, Rooney scores England are leading 2-1 after 2 penalties each. Up steps Pirlo it’s a pressure penalty and Hart looks a favourite to put him off too. What happens next is the start of the slow decline of Joe Hart, Pirlo’s beautifully executed panenka completely burst the façade around Hart, England lost confidence and the shootout and to me Hart has been in decline ever since.
The following season Hart started to struggle with form although he did keeping the cleanest sheets in the League and again he struggled again in 2013-14 season eventually being dropped having made a mistake against Chelsea which led to Fernando Torres winning goal. Hart seemed to struggle under the intense scrutiny where any mistake however small would be dissected and publicised.
Hart retained his position in the England team thanks mainly to a lack of viable successor with Jack Butland and Fraser Forster suffering long term injuries and lack of form. Hart was at fault for Gareth Bales free kick goal and the European Championships in 2016 and Iceland’s winning goal in the last 16 of the same tournament. Harts stock had never been as low, his confidence took another knock when Pep Guardiola made it very clear that Hart was surplus to requirements and was loaned to Torino.
Hart was given credit for broadening his horizons and moving to Italy but Hart endured a torrid time in Italy conceding 66 goals in 38 games in the League. It was in Italy that Harts weakness to his left was exposed and capitalised on. He was criticised by Torino’s chairman and certain elements of the Italian press and rather than enhancing his reputation his sojourn to Italy only reduced his reputation further.
And so to West Ham on paper a great move for all involved but putting a goalkeeper low in confidence behind a leaky defence was not going to work out well for either party. Hart has been a victim of circumstance West Ham have been poor defensively and while Hart has made errors against Watford and Everton, the problem seems to lie in the defensive shape of the team rather than Hart individually. Now Hart finds himself out of a team in the bottom 3 of the Premier League with his World Cup place in doubt Adrian has performed well but he has benefited from the stability and solidity Moyes has brought to the club.
Hart is a strong character and he really is at the crossroads in his career, he could bounce back to his former heights or he could go the way of other England Goalkeeper’s and drop down the Leagues think Chris Kirkland and Scott Carson.
I still believe he has something to offer both West Ham and England, let’s not forget Lionel Messi described him as a phenomenon as recently as 2015 he has 75 caps for his country, he has experienced playing at the very top of the European game, He has diminished slightly I think that is clear but could it be that we overhype these players so much that actually when the hyperbole is removed we see them for what they really are. No other position on the pitch is as unforgiving as Goalkeeper you are alone, yet goals are let in by the team as a whole not an individual, Hart has made mistakes but Keepers do, I hope he can regain his confidence and his form and get back to the player he was before that fateful night in Ukraine in 2012. If he can he could a real benefit to West Ham in the 2nd half of the season.