Hart denies Capello's claims he must learn to be more focused

 

Joe Hart last night delivered a barbed response to Fabio Capello's suggestion that the Manchester City goalkeeper lacks concentration in games, insisting that the England manager was wrong and asking: "What else could I be considered to be concentrating on?"

Hart was slow to respond to the David Bentley free-kick, which let Nikola Zigic score Birmingham City's first equaliser in the 2-2 draw at St Andrew's on Wednesday. Added to a moment's indecision in the second half and an error to gift Leicester a goal in the FA Cup last month and the goalkeeper is not instilling much confidence in his defence.

Capello insisted last month that Hart "has to understand when you play with the first team you have to be focused every game. He has to be focused only on the game." Hart was clearly piqued by this and, though not referring directly to Capello, gave an eye-catching response to the suggestions the Italian made. "It is quite frustrating to hear," Hart said at an event at Eastlands to promote healthy eating among children. "Sometimes I don't know whether my personality of actually enjoying a game of football comes into question. Maybe I will have to take some boring lessons. People are entitled to their opinions and can say what they want, but when it comes to football I focus.

"I don't know what else there is to think about when you are in goal, what else I could be considered to be concentrating on. It is not as if there is a movie going on in the background or you are doing your homework and a fly comes into the room and you go after it. There is a ball. That is it."

Hart does not lack confidence when it comes to challenging questions about his on- and off-field activities. His response last month to questions about the fact he had been drinking included the line that he could not be expected to "live like a monk". However, Capello may be surprised by the reaction of a player who is expected to feature for England in Denmark next week.

Hart certainly aspires to grow into a legend at City, contributing last night to the flood of tributes for his club's former forward Neil Young, who has lost his battle with cancer at the age of 66. Young's example showed "that by doing something like that at a great club like Manchester City you can be put down as a legend," Hart said.

Another City player some way off Young's status is Mario Balotelli, who has declared that he believes he can be fit for the Manchester derby a week tomorrow. One of the knee specialists who worked with him during his enforced break in Vermont is accompanying him back to England to maintain his rehabilitation. "I'm dying to get back to playing: without football I am not Mario," said the striker, who has been concerned all season about the lack of muscle strength around his damaged knee and is working to build it up with one of the clinicians assigned to his case by the world-renowned specialist Bill Knowles. "I'm giving it my all [to try to be available for the derby]."

Aleksandar Kolarov has questioned manager Roberto Mancini's claim after City's draw with Birmingham that the club can no longer win the Premier League title. "I think we can do better than just the first four. I think we can maybe win the title. If we try to play like in other months, we can win the title. The championship is long and we will try to do our best."

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