“His is a fall from grace that can be rivalled only by Walls Vienetta. Both are still good, but have gone from top shelf to bargain bin in a relative heartbeat.” – comment about Joe Hart seen on Reddit
Poor Joe Hart has played just three games for Burnley since December 2018, all in cup matches. Three! And now Burnley have decided not to extend Hart’s contract, which runs out at the end of this month.
I say Poor Joe Hart, because it’s increasingly difficult to not feel a tad sorry for England’s former No.1. After all, he’s the same age (33) as France and Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris, to name one example, and yet Lloris is still very much on top of his game. Thirty-three is not old for a goalkeeper, but Hart might as well be 63 given how low his reputation has sunk. I mean, this is a man with 75 England caps and four domestic Golden Gloves awards in his cupboard, reduced to something of a laughing stock. No matter how obnoxious he was at his peak (his head did become a sniper’s dream before it all went sour at Euro 2016), that’s plain sad.
It’s very unlikely that another Premier League club will take a chance on Hart, who has bounced from Torino (solid start, fans liked him, then the rot crept in) to West Ham (growing narrative: he can’t get down low to shots to his left) and back to Burnley (Nick Pope in his way) since quitting Man City in 2018. One tabloid has linked him with Arsenal today, but that seems like dubious transfer rumour maths: Bernd Leno + injury = Hart emergency signing. Things are bad for the Gunners, but are they that bad?
Which leaves… er, MLS? Chinese Super League? Both unlikely. MLS has no shortage of decent, cheap, homegrown keepers, and Hart is not a big enough star to wow the Far East. Ummm… Glasgow Rangers, anyone? In reality, Hart may have to take a pay cut to play for a Championship club, which would also be the most likely path to rehabilitation. Derby County might be a good fit, especially as Wayne Rooney can actually remember when Hart was good.
All in all, Being Joe Hart in 2020 must be a poignant existence, one you wouldn’t wish even on Joe Hart.