Joe Hart is facing a crisis like never before with Costel Pantilimon reportedly set to make his first Premier League start against Norwich tomorrow, forcing Joe into the unfamiliar position (in the league at least) of substitute.
Never before has Hart experienced this sort of media scrutiny and pressure and let’s be honest, he’s had quite an easy ride until now. His confidence looks to be shattered and even the very basics you expect of a goalkeeper have become a struggle for him. He comes off his line when he really shouldn’t and stays on his line when he should come off it to claim the ball.
Joe Hart can do very little right it seems, but Joe Hart has not become a poor goalkeeper overnight. Little more than a year ago, Joe had one of the finest goalkeeping displays you will ever see against Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad. City were completely outplayed by the breathtakingly speedy and skillful Dortmund side, but somehow came away with a 1-1 draw when it could have been a massacre.
That night, Joe Hart was a one man army and made save after save as Dortmund assaulted the City goal with 18 shots.
Before the Dortmund game, Hart had been an instrumental part in City winning the title the season before, making many key saves that won City points. It’s easy to forget games like Aston Villa away when City were 1-0 up and Hart made an extraordinary save at the death from a Darren Bent effort.
Then you had some of the world’s elite goalkeepers such as Gigi Buffon and Iker Casillas lavishing praise on Joe, who they identified as one of the world’s best emerging goalkeepers.
Joe Hart is struggling and this is a true test of his mentality. Can he recover from this slump? Will he see being dropped as a challenge to bounce back stronger than ever or sink further? Joe Hart is one of our own, a player who has developed into the best English goalkeeper of his generation since joining City as a teenager. We want him to bounce back, but it’s up to him – and there is someone he could look to for inspiration or even go to for advice…
1982. Argentina invades the Falkland Islands. Prince William is born. And Peter Shilton makes an epic cock-up against none other than Manchester City. Shilton had joined Southampton from Nottingham Forest in a high profile move, seeking a fresh start ahead of the 1982 World Cup and following problems with his personal life.
It didn’t take long for Shilton, England’s established number for many years by that point, to make a colossal and very familiar mistake. Indeed, Hart and Nastasic’s mix-up against Aston Villa was almost a carbon copy of one between Shilton and Mark Wright for Southampton against City in November ’82. Observe the first 20 seconds of this video.
The parallels are clear. England’s number one rushes off his line and finds himself in no man’s land, gifting the opposition a goal. Both goals also involved young defenders of great promise – Wright, then only 19, would go on to win 45 caps for England from 1984 to 1996. Even the commentator was the same for both games, with Martin Tyler behind the microphone.
Things are a little different now, though. The print media is less forgiving than ever and has been merciless with Hart recently. Then there are the replays all day long on Sky Sports News and round the clock social media – #GoalkeepersBetterThanJoeHart was trending on Twitter after his mistake against Chelsea. It’s harder to just sweep a mistake under the rug and move on nowadays.
But Shilton recovered and went on to represent England at three more World Cups. The calamitous error didn’t make him a bad goalkeeper, nor did Joe Hart’s. Let’s hope Joe Hart can rise to the challenge and regain the form that saw him nominated for the FIFPro World XI less than a year ago.