'Because of the nice contracts people are out to get us’ says Hart
Goalkeeper admits criticism of City has been difficult but that pain of last year's derby defeats hurts more
Tuesday 09 November 2010
There's already one big job on the cards this week but a faint heart has not put Joe Hart where he is today, so the prospect of providing an hour's coaching to Manchester City's academy players on skills including how to avoid "lifestyle distractions" is something he was prepared to put his hand up for yesterday, 48 hours before the Manchester derby.
The timing of this appearance carries some heavy irony, given that just a few weeks have passed since the goalkeeper's manager publicly questioned why he was found drinking in Marbella and then photographed drinking with Gareth Barry, Adam Johnson and Shay Given at a student party in St Andrews.
Hart is clearly not entirely happy with the welter of negative headlines which have haunted City heading into tomorrow's match. "We're lucky because of the things that get written about us, only about 20 per cent are true," he tells his young audience.
But the drinking incidents are undisguisable and, when he had left the group of young players City consider so important to discuss those controversies publicly for the first time, Hart admitted as much. He said that attending a stag event in Marbella 36 hours before Fabio Capello's squad gathered to face Montenegro – and then heading to Scotland for that day off before the first storm had entirely abated – were not the wisest decisions he had taken in his 23 years.
"It's difficult," Hart says. "You could say that people who say [I should have kept a low profile after the first incident] would be right but at the same time I've always felt, professionally, that I'm totally 100 per cent ready for every training session I've performed in. I don't think you have to live like a monk. Naivety comes into it a little bit, but you have got learn fast as a footballer."
And even faster when you're a Manchester City player. The general delight taken by the world outside of east Manchester at the prospect of any indiscretion among Roberto Mancini's well remunerated stars has made the players feel more targeted that United's, Hart believes. "Yeah, people are out to get us," he reflects. "Not for everyone at the club but for most people getting those nice contracts, I think that's what comes with it."
It is harder to argue with this point than with Hart's reluctance to acknowledge that drinking to excess, rather than simply getting caught drinking to excess, is a mistake. City – from their chief executive, Garry Cook, to their highly paid players – have been characterised as pantomime villains by those who despise the attempt by the club's Abu Dhabi owners to buy their way to football's top table.
For once, tomorrow night United will probably have more supporters among the neutrals and Sir Alex Ferguson will characterise himself today as the manager whose currency is young talent, not petrodollars.
Hart is an articulate proponent of the view that challenging the established hegemony is City's right. "Obviously for Manchester United it was standard procedure for them to be winning titles and winning trophies six or seven years ago," he says. "But it's not quite that simple any more because there a lot of good teams out there, like ourselves, who would like to be included in that."
You sense the presence of Carlos Tevez around the place will have left those, like Hart, who were outsiders a year ago in no doubt about what tomorrow evening means. But Hart's description of the Tevez brand of captaincy – the most revealing we have had to date – makes it clear that the Argentine is not a big dressing-room talker, despite going toe-to-toe with Mancini in the dressing room halfway through last month's victory against Newcastle.
"If he was that sort of character who [orders you about], then we wouldn't need a manager," he says. "He may not be giving big team talks or speeches before the game, but he doesn't need to. He can carry a team and he can carry 10 men. If we were stinking on a Saturday and Carlos played well, there's a good chance that we would win. You would look to him in a game, not to give you a pep talk, but to win you a game. I'd say he's the best player I have played with."
The sessions Hart will be working on with the young players in the coming weeks, as part of an academy multiskills lifestyle programme which teaches them how to create a lifestyle conducive to succeeding at the top level and becoming role models, include "cultural awareness". That doesn't include setting off a pre-derby match war of words with, Ferguson so he desists from questioning why on earth the United manager allowed Tevez to leave for City in the first place. "He is one of the greatest managers that has ever lived, so if he decided that Carlos wasn't right for his club, then that's how it is."
But Hart's departure on loan to Birmingham City last season, which took him out of three incendiary last-minute defeats to United, has not deprived him of a desire for vengeance that you won't learn about in a life-skills coaching manual. "We owe them one," Hart says. "It was heartbreaking to watch [last season] and even if we'd won the previous four games 7-0, we'd still feel that we owe them one. That's just how it is. That's how it always will be and you can't move Manchester City and Manchester United."
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