Saturday 26 May 2018

Hart signs off with supporters on his side

Manchester City 1 St Bucharest 0 (City win 6-0 on aggregate)

Fabian Delph scores the opening goal past Valentin Cojocaru of Steaua Bucharest (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Fabian Delph scores the opening goal past Valentin Cojocaru of Steaua Bucharest (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Mark Ogden

If Pep Guardiola was hoping that Joe Hart would go quietly from Manchester City, it was a rare misjudgement on the part of the club's celebrated new manager, with almost everyone else inside the Etihad Stadium calling for the goalkeeper to stay during this routine Champions League victory against Steaua Bucharest.

Hart did his bit, not only keeping a clean sheet against the 1986 European champions but also producing a handful of saves which merely served to turn up the volume on those chants imploring Guardiola to reconsider his opinion of the England goalkeeper.

But with Guardiola making it clear that Hart does not fulfil his requirements for a top-level goalkeeper, this may well prove to be his final appearance between the sticks for City.

Yet if it is the end, Hart, who applauded all corners of the stadium at the end of the game, can at least walk away knowing that he made a point to the man who is ready to discard him with Claudio Bravo set to finalise his £17m move from Barcelona.

Manchester City's Serbian defender Aleksandar Kolarov beats Romanian striker Alexandru Tudorie (L) in the air Picture: AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Manchester City's Serbian defender Aleksandar Kolarov beats Romanian striker Alexandru Tudorie (L) in the air Picture: AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

So by the time City face West Ham at the Etihad on Sunday, the England number one will be his club's third-choice goalkeeper.

Captain one minute, cast into the wilderness the next, but at least Hart will leave City - it is impossible for the 29-year-old to remain at the club as a number three - with the knowledge that his contribution to their success has been acknowledged by the fans.

Hart's name was cheered when announced on the big screen prior to kick-off, his every touch - especially those with his feet - was met with applause and he was also the subject of a song - 'Don't sell Joe Hart, Please don't sell Joe Hart, I just don't think you understand,' by the Etihad crowd.

It was not a show of defiance towards Guardiola, whose name was also sung loudly, but the message from the fans was clear - Hart deserves better than to be cast aside so ruthlessly.

Marko Momcilovic tackles Jesus Navas (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Marko Momcilovic tackles Jesus Navas (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

In return, Hart blew a kiss to the fans behind his goal as he prepared for one of the quieter nights of his City career with Fabien Delph's second-half goal proving enough for victory on a night when the result wasn't the story. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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