City’s promising keeper Joe Hart has reflected on a busy summer with an exclusive chat to mcfc.co.uk.
The England Under 21 stopper was lucky to just creep in to double figures for his number of days off during the summer and made a return to action in the Blues’ 4-0 victory over Carlstad United on Saturday.
Joe recalled the time after his U21 call-up: “We had a week in Valencia, then five or six days off, which was the longest break we had, then the game in Norwich and straight after that we flew to Holland.”
Hart was part of former City boss Stuart Pearce’s squad at the Under 21 European Championships, but thanks to the excellent form of regular keeper Scott Carson, Joe’s 45 minutes at the weekend were his first meaningful moments on a pitch since the Young Lions’ win over Slovakia at Norwich in early June.
Pearce’s boys cruised to a 5-0 victory at Carrow Road, but the highlight of the night for Hart came after the 90 minutes, with a pre-arranged penalty shoot-out.
Of that experience the Blues keeper said: “It gave me something to do because I didn’t touch the ball for the whole game!
“I’m glad we had that shoot-out, but after every single training session since the start of the summer we had a penalty shoot-out. Stuart wanted to have one in front of a few people to make it a bit more realistic.
And of course it was typical that England would lose on penalties in their semi final exit to the hosts, but nobody could have predicted a 13-12 scoreline.
“No-one can say that it was a typical England performance in a shoot-out,” added Joe.
“It was a freak game. Our penalties were brilliant, theirs were excellent as well and it was just a cruel way to go out.
“I really felt for them, there was some good bonding in the squad, everyone wanted everybody else to do well. That included Tom Huddlestone, who was suspended against Holland, the lads on the bench and the ones playing, we were just rooting for each other.”
That was the former Shrewsbury keeper’s first taste of tournament football and as with his opening season at City, he admits it was a learning curve for him.
“It was great to be away with the lads and to bond with the squad, but it is a long time to go without playing.
“You learn to entertain yourself and keep yourself interested, there’s no point in getting stressed because you’re there for the team.”
Following the Euro exit, Hart wasted no time in trying to fit in a bit more ‘r and r’ before getting back to the grindstone and a certain Mr Eric Steele.
He revealed: “I managed to get a holiday in just before we came back into training, but it was nice to be involved in the tournament, it’s just a shame the way that it finished.
“I went to the Dominican for a week, but then it was straight back to Carrington and straight back to Steeley!
“It was great to be back and into the swing of things straight away rather than have nothing to do before coming back to training.”
Now back at City, Joe has a new Manager to try and impress, particularly with the competition for places hotting up under Sven-Goran Eriksson.
“It’s a new era for City, I’m waiting to see where I fit into things, but I’m ready for anything.”