Joe Hart reveals why he left Man City: 'Some people you struggle to argue with. I had to move on'
As Joe Hart looks back over the last five weeks of his life there is one man who looms above, but the England goalkeeper cannot bring himself to say his name.
It was Pep Guardiola who ruthlessly ended Hart’s 10-year career at Manchester City. With the transfer window threatening to close and leave him gathering dust on the bench, Hart signed for Torino on loan for the season and readily admits there were few other options available.
He is relishing his new life in Turin, having kept two clean sheets after a difficult debut – a 2-1 defeat to Atalanta – and is fully focused on the latest chapter of what has proved a turbulent few months.
But speaking for the first time in detail about his departure from City, the disappointment at that painful and very public demise is still clear.
“Football is a game of opinions and some people have a great opinion of me and some people probably think I’m absolutely useless. Unfortunately for me, one of the guys’ opinions in charge of my club at the time wasn’t as strong as it needed to be,” he said.
“Some people you struggle to argue with – they’ve got a lot of strong backing to what they say and what they do. It’s hard to please everyone and I learnt quite early that that’s never going to happen.
“I had a situation at City where my playing time was going to be limited, so I had to look elsewhere. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t sat there with 25 options. I felt like Torino was the best option for me and it was pretty quick. I wasn’t given much time so when that opportunity came, I was really grateful.”
Guardiola made it clear in pre-season that Hart would not be his No 1 and it seems inevitable that the 29-year-old will leave City permanently next summer. However, his relationship with City’s supporters remains strong and he is still moved by the emotional farewell he received in his final game, the Champions League tie against Steaua Bucharest in August.
Torino’s fans also held up a banner with Hart’s face on it for last month’s game against Roma. So is it a realistic goal to go back to City?
“I’m at Torino for the season and it’s hard to look past these [England] internationals,” he said. “How this season plays out, or what comes of it, will be however it ends up. I’m at Torino with huge commitment to the club, huge commitment to the season, the culture, the football and I’m going to give it my all. Whatever happens, happens.
“I need to improve all the time because I’m still learning the game and the game is changing all the time. I love trying to improve – I love that challenge. I want to keep developing until I physically can’t.”
While Hart’s future at City is highly uncertain, he also regards his position as England’s No 1 as far from secure. He has been virtually unchallenged for the past four years, playing in Sam Allardyce’s only game against Slovakia, but his disappointing performances at Euro 2016 have placed his position in jeopardy.
Stoke’s Jack Butland would have been a genuine rival if he had not suffered a recurrence of an ankle injury while Fraser Forster has played a huge part in Southampton going nine hours without conceding a goal.
“There’s always a threat to my place – that’s very evident because we’ve got some fantastic ’keepers,” Hart said. “Tom [Heaton] and Fraser are performing brilliantly in the Premier League from what I’ve seen. Sunderland aren’t doing well as a team but Jordan [Pickford] is doing well.
“So there are good keepers everywhere you look and you can’t rest. There is never that feeling. Right from playing under-14s at Shrewsbury Town, you’ve got to be aware of your surroundings.”
Hart has now played under four managers with England, with Gareth Southgate the latest appointment following the dismissal of Allardyce.
Southgate has three more games to stake a claim for the post full-time and Hart believes there is one priority for England as they recover from their dismal experience in France.
“I think it’s definitely down to us to create an identity of the team that we are trying to be,” he said. “Win, lose or draw, I think we need an identity of why we won, why we lost, why it didn’t go very well.
“I’ve never been looking too far ahead. It’s always been the future and the present and the near future.
“Gareth is the England manager. He has come in and set a really good example. He’s had a lot of work with the FA previously. Asking the 21 lads what Gareth is like as a manager, [there] couldn’t be a more positive reaction. From what I’ve seen, I am excited to work with him.”