Roberto Mancini was the one speaking out of turn when he delivered that “I am the judge, not Joe Hart” rebuke to his goalkeeper.
Mancini is a good manager, rightly beloved by the fans for the way he turned
them into title winners, but he picked the wrong target on Tuesday. Hart is
not the problem; this talented, dedicated goalkeeper is part of the solution
City’s manager was maybe simply swamped with too much emotion in the wake of defeat, rather than rationally concluding that Hart was not undermining the team, simply articulating the desire to get things right. Hart certainly did not single out individuals which would have been breaking dressing room rules.
Mancini should have been praising Hart’s response. Those fans encountered by this observer on the flight back from Spain yesterday were encouraged to hear of Hart’s sentiments. They paid good money to travel to Madrid and wanted to know that the players were hurting.
Hart’s comment that City should not “pat ourselves on the back” for a plucky defeat at such a vaunted venue went down well. It signified ambition. It boded well for the team’s ability to learn, develop and progress in Europe. Footballers are so often accused of bland interviews but here was a professional prepared to analyse frankly a performance. Good for him. Whatever Mancini may think, Hart’s words will have won him many friends.
One of the barbs launched at Mancini’s side over the past couple of years is that it has been created artificially, rather than organically. Money has undoubtedly been thrown at the famous project, building a side that first won the
FA Cup in 2011 and then the Premier League last season. What Hart’s outburst proved is that there are passionate people in the dressing room, utterly determined to deliver success for themselves, the fans and their employers.
Hart, who cost just £1.5 million from Shrewsbury, is a popular figure amongst the squad. He is respected for his goalkeeping strengths. He is liked for his genial character off the pitch. He is admired for his professionalism, his willingness to work hard to improve himself.
Speaking with emotion about City’s display also provided a fine example to everyone at the club, from distinguished team-mates to those attempting to break through from the Academy, that the game is about attitude as well as aptitude.
Hart had also kept Mancini’s side in the game in the first half, and was arguably not even the most culpable when Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-minute shot eluded him to give Real a deserved victory. Vincent Kompany spoke as a captain yesterday when he absolved Hart of any blame.
“It wasn’t Joe’s fault,’’ said Kompany. “It [the ball] floated past everyone, the way it went down and dipped. Joe initially thought I might be able to get it but there was no chance. It was at the side of me and it just floated but I think Ronaldo is one of the only players that can do that. He’s got that skill.”