Joe Hart: Man City ‘excited’ about Liverpool showdown
Joe Hart says Manchester City are ready for a thrilling Premier League showdown with Liverpool on Sunday
Joe Hart has rubbished suggestions that having been there and done it in a tight Premier League title race gives Manchester City the edge second time around.
With just a month left in this season’s title race, it looks like being one of the closest finishes yet with City, Liverpool and Chelsea all eyeing up the prize come May.
While Chelsea has been accustomed to fighting for domestic dominance since the arrival of Roman Abramovich, Liverpool are relatively new to the experience having finished seventh last season.
It is going to be an exciting day on Sunday against Liverpool
As for City, they can harp back to memories of two seasons ago when they snatched the title out of arch rivals Manchester United’s hands on goal difference thanks to a last-gasp Sergio Aguero strike against QPR on the final day.
But with this campaign fast becoming a three-horse race with an extra team thrown into the mix, England goalkeeper Hart is adamant City’s maiden Premier League success and the pressures it put them through will have no bearing on the destination of the title this season.
“I have been lucky that a lot of my career so far has been pretty exciting,” said Hart, speaking on behalf of the Gillette Great Start programme.
“There has always been stuff coming up or things on the horizon and right now we are in the thick of a title race.
“I don’t know if having been there and done it before helps. It has not been a hindrance but things have changed and times changed and everything is different.
“It is not a bad thing that a few of us have got a winner’s medal already but we are all just as hungry for another one and while everything is different we are ready for it.
“It is going to be an exciting day on Sunday against Liverpool first and foremost and that is what we are concentrating on. There has been a lot of build up but we remain focused.
“We had a big game at the weekend against Southampton and got a good result out of that so we go into Liverpool confident.”
Hart also has a World Cup in football’s spiritual home of Brazil to occupy his thoughts, although earlier this season it didn’t look too promising.
After a momentary loss of form Hart was dropped for Costel Pantilimon in November with the Romanian holding the fort for two months.
But Hart was thrown back into the thick of the action just before Christmas against Fulham and he hasn’t looked back since, producing a string of commanding performances to cement his place as No.1 at Manchester City and also for England.
“We [City] have put ourselves in the position with a lot of hard work and hopefully that will finish the way we want to with that even bigger carrot of the summer tournament for me,” he added.
“It is easy to get carried away and look forward to that but right now it is hard because there is so much going on in my football life right now.
“I am focused on things with Man City and I believe that if that all goes well I can take it on into the summer.
“We all want to finish our season well for our clubs and see where we go from there.”
Meanwhile, Hart’s first goalkeeping coach Dave Timmins believes Joe Hart’s loyalty to Shrewsbury has been crucial in propelling the England shot-stopper to the cusp of a World Cup debut.
Timmins first encountered Hart when the young goalkeeper was just eight, the coach and his apprentice joining forces at Shrewsbury Town and with Shropshire Schools Football.
The relationship lasted a decade before Hart, who is a brand ambassador for Gillette and is helping to launch this year’s Great Start programme, was picked up by Man City in 2006, the 26-year-old being able to boast Premier League and FA Cup-winning campaigns on his CV.
But the two were reunited on Monday at the AJ Bell Stadium to help launch the 2014 Gillette Great Start Programme, which supports and celebrates great coaches who inspire the next generation at every level by awarding coaching grants through the scheme.
“I first came across Joe most probably when he was eight years of age with Shrewsbury Town, Timmins said. “We used to train on a second hand light off the Astroturf on the grass and he just loved diving around.
“And quite quickly after about six weeks we moved him up into the under-11s and 12s group because he wasn’t afraid.
“When he was about 13 or 14 was when I really started to see that there was something special about Joe.
“It was quite funny really because he was trialing at other clubs but for whatever reason they never sorted it out with him.
“It was good really because it was good for me, good for Shrewsbury Town and I believe good for himself too as he got to experience first team football rather than potentially just sit on a bench somewhere.
“He is a loyal lad too, loyal to Shrewsbury Town and at that age he just stuck with it and look where he is now.”
Gillette’s Great Start programme celebrates the role of coaching and encourages people to get into coaching by offering grants. To apply for a coaching grant visit www.facebook.co.uk/GilletteUK open from the 8th April 2014.