Joe Hart intends to carry on speaking from the heart
Saturday 29 September 2012
One of the tips for a journalist conducting a live television interview is that you must always know the answer to your question. It is why so many post-match interviews begin with 'how'. "How delighted are you?" "How big a win was that?" "How good is Cristiano Ronaldo?" The answers are 'very', 'very' and 'very'.
It would be surprising if Gabriel Clarke, the ITV journalist who spoke to Joe Hart immediately after Ronaldo's shot had dipped savagely beneath his gloves to give Real Madrid a last-ditch victory at the Bernabeu on 18 September, expected the response he got from the Manchester City goalkeeper.
When Clarke said, "It is not often Real draw here, let alone lose," it was a sympathetic statement based on what most viewers would have thought – Manchester City had come astonishingly close to a victory that would have echoed around Europe. Instead, Hart gave the kind of answer that would have made Roy Keane proud.
"It is hard to come off the pitch and be positive; I know you want to hear that but we lost the game," he said. "We are not a team that should pat ourselves on the back having lost."
A few days later, in the Trafford Centre, a monument to commerce rather than sport, Hart is similarly uncompromising. He is promoting a football game, Fifa 13, but this is not the time for an easy chat.
"I feel that way everywhere we go, whether that is in the first round of the FA Cup or at the Bernabeu," he said. "You play to win. There is no part of me that is happy we lost. We played bloody well and there are moments we can look back upon – Yaya [Touré]'s goal, [Aleksandar] Kolarov putting in that ball that nobody could defend. But we lost."
Interestingly, Borussia Dortmund, Wednesday's opponents in the Champions League, have suffered their own defensive agonies when beginning the defence of their Bundesliga title.
"Six goals conceded in two games is fatal," said their captain, Sebastian Kehl, in the wake of Tuesday's 3-3 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt. "It is a terrible number." Manchester City have conceded eight in three.
Maybe it is the appointment of a new defensive coach, Angelo Gregucci, whose instructions have to be translated. Maybe it is the experimentation with a three-man defence. Maybe it is the fact that, since the Premier League began, only Manchester United and Chelsea have successfully defended a title.
"We have been there to be shot at for a while so I don't think actually winning the title makes any real difference," Hart said. "For financial reasons people have long had a point to prove against Manchester City. We haven't had the start we had last year but, then again, we might not have the January we had last season.
"I think [manager Roberto Mancini] does know his best team. He has chopped and changed when necessary but I don't think he is searching for anything. It is going to be tough to retain the title, but then again it was ridiculously tough last time."
Mancini did not appreciate his goalkeeper's comments in Madrid, mainly because in the fluster of the frantic hour and a half between the final whistle at the Bernabeu and the departure for Barajas Airport, he misunderstood what Hart had said. Mancini thought he had said Manchester City were not good enough.
Hart, however, is a man who has always spoken his mind. When City's scrambled 3-3 draw with Sunderland last season gave United the chance to go five points clear with seven matches remaining, Mancini publicly stated that his side would be "finished" if they lost the subsequent game at Arsenal, which they did.
Hart, however, delivered an impassioned "fight, fight and fight again" speech, declaring that City would never give up their pursuit of United – although he could not have imagined how that race would end.
"I meant what I said then," he remarked. "I never say anything I don't mean. I do believe. When England went to the Euros, people said we had no chance of winning the competition but my point was, why would I do anything I didn't believe I could win?"
England did not win but Manchester City did. Mancini's concession of the title was hailed as a masterstroke, simultaneously removing the pressure from his own players and beating his United counterpart, Sir Alex Ferguson, at his own mind games.
"Well, whatever he said, it worked," said Hart, with rather more scepticism. "Did he tell us that? No, of course he didn't. He would never tell his team they couldn't win it.
"We knew it would be difficult, we knew we had to rely on other teams, but we knew as well we could win all our remaining games. That belief is still there."
Joe Hart was taking part in the #Fifa13CelebCup. Go to facebook.com/easportsfifa for photos of the event. EA Sports Fifa13 is out now on all formats including PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360 and iOS
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