Joe Hart: 'My two-year-old nephew sometimes scores against me'

Goalkeeper accepts some shots are unsaveable and this relaxed attitude has secured him England's No 1 shirt

He ended last season as Manchester City's No 2 goalkeeper and England's No 3 and now, 12 months on, Joe Hart is the first choice for club and country. In fact, he is considered so far ahead of the pack by his contemporaries that they are queuing up to quit international football.

That was the obvious place to start this week with Hart, now officially England's No 1 having started seven out of eight of England's internationals this season and a shoo-in to play in the Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland tomorrow. Throw in an FA Cup winners' medal and a place in the Champions League next season and it is hard to think of an England player who will depart for his holidays come Sunday a happier man.

In terms of English goalkeepers, Hart, just 24, is out there on his own. Fabio Capello and Roberto Mancini both reached the same conclusion in August that he was ready to step up to be No 1 and neither of them have been disappointed. There have been wobbles for City – most notably against Blackburn Rovers in September and Leicester City in the FA Cup in January – but generally Hart's form has been excellent.

So much so that his deputy with England, Ben Foster, has taken indefinite leave from international duty and Robert Green has had to be talked out of retiring from England duty. "I don't think it was anything to do with me if I am totally honest; I think they have all got their personal reasons for making the decision," Hart said this week, but his fellow pros recognise that the man from Shrewsbury is the future.

It will take a certain kind of individual to hold down a place as England's No 1 for more than a decade. Since David Seaman, who held the role for 11 years until October 2002, it has gone from David James, to Paul Robinson, back to James and finally to Hart with brief diversions along the way, including Green and Scott Carson. Job security has not been good.

Hart is a markedly different character from all of his predecessors apart from, perhaps, Green who, like him, demonstrates the same philosophical approach to the ups and downs of the job (leaving aside Green's "screw you" gesture directed at the Upton Park press box in September). Hart is a bit more laid-back, opening up this week about his season, from the admission that he wanted Manchester United to win the Champions League final to how his two-year-old nephew can put the occasional goal past him in the park.

The latter came up when he remembered the screamer Xherdan Shaqiri hit past him for Switzerland in Basle in September. The moral of the story being: there are some things a goalkeeper can do nothing about. "I was talking to Rob Green about it," Hart said. "I could be down the park playing with my nephew who isn't even three years old. If he kicks it in the corner, I can't save it. It's as simple as that.

"It doesn't matter who you're playing and what you're doing. You can be humbled as a goalkeeper. Obviously you do everything you can to prevent it, but you have to accept that anyone at any point can score past you.

"I keep my perspective from training every day with world-class players. You can have the best game of your life and there's literally some stuff you can't get to or you can't do. I would like to think at the same time they might take a shot that they should score and we save it. It works both ways.

"Nothing is given, there is a lot of pressure but there is a lot of pressure in everything that you do, whether it is at home looking after the family or whether it is playing in goal for England. I think you have to accept that sometimes it is going to happen, but the whole point is that you can't live in fear of preventing mistakes, you just have to try to enjoy yourself and do the best thing you can and try and move England forward."

As for United against Barcelona, was he really supporting City's neighbours on Saturday night? He weighs his words carefully. "I genuinely do support all English teams. Barça were just on another level, weren't they? I wanted an English team to win the Champions League."

Hart came into the professional game at his hometown club Shrewsbury Town and he talks with great fondness of the opportunity they gave him before he moved on to City at 19. He does not agree that there is a dearth of English goalkeepers, just that life is hard when you are not playing. He has won his battle with Shay Given but there are plenty of other goalkeepers who cannot get past their club's first choice.

"There's one spot to play in a team, unfortunately, and in the Premier League we attract worldwide players," Hart said. "It's hard to get that No 1 spot, really, really hard. It's difficult, I think we've got some great keepers, some good ones in the Championship and the Premier League. People tend to look at it negatively but you don't need 25 goalkeepers; you only need five or six good ones."

In his own difficult times last season Hart admits only to having had "a little think about what was going on" although he is yet to use a sports psychologist – not that he is of the old school who might regard that as a weakness: "I wouldn't rule anything out in the future." He describes Mancini as a "demanding manager" but he has not clashed with him because, as Hart puts it, he does what he is told.

Given his own undoubted ability and – not to put too fine a point on it – the absence of much current competition, Hart has the potential to be the goalkeeper of his generation, a 100-plus caps man. Judging from the way he talks he is smart enough to grasp the opportunity but, as he himself would admit, when it comes to being England goalkeeper some good fortune is required too.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee