Joe Hart has admitted he was unsure about the future he had in football during his time at Burnley.
The goalkeeper spent two years with the Clarets, starting with the team in the 2018-19 season, before losing his place to an in-form Tom Heaton and then Nick Pope. Hart attempted to leave Turf Moor after his first season at the club but, speaking on the new In the Stiffs podcast, admitted he found the world of football was closed to him just three years after being Man City and England No.1.
The arrival of Pep Guardiola ended his time at Manchester and he joined Burnley after loan spells with Torino and West Ham. He played the first 19 Premier League games of his first season at Turf Moor before Sean Dyche reinstated Heaton for a decisive win over West Ham that started a run to safety.
READ MORE: Joe Hart, Burnley and why the move didn’t work for anyone
Hart made just three further Burnley appearances, all in cup competitions, and left on a free transfer in 2020, eventually signing for Tottenham. Yet 12 months earlier, Hart admitted he couldn’t find a club that wanted him.
“I had a year left on my contract but obviously I had to go,” he said, recalling the summer of 2019. Popey is now fit, Heats are playing well and captain the club.
“Burnley wasn’t going to get in my way and said if you find somewhere go. I tried to find somewhere and couldn’t find anything. The world of football was closed. I had finished. I cannot be given. I was ready to go abroad and it wasn’t happening.
“So I ended up staying at Burnley. Heats ended up leaving, Popey was number one but there was never any question of me being in the line up and playing. I didn’t expect that and they didn’t expect to have to make a decision. It was never going to happen.
“I trained as hard as I could and I didn’t know what was coming next. If I didn’t have the opportunity to do something that I really wanted to do, I was completely at peace with it.
And while the move from Spurs meant his career continued, with Hart spending a year in the capital before joining Celtic – where he is impressing this term – he struggled to advance at Burnley.
“It never came to the time to think (to retire) because things happened,” he said. “It would have hurt me, would have destroyed me (to retire) but I was adamant that I couldn’t commit to a club or run unless I wanted to. Not in a way child, I knew that to get involved in football I had to want to do it to give myself to it.
“I was always going to have a conversation with someone who was interested and I didn’t know what I wanted. It could have been anyone. I haven’t turned anything off.
“Covid hit in February with Burnley. I came back and there was an option on my deal but we didn’t have that conversation. There was never any animosity, always respect. I always did what I could to help the team with me not playing and these guys giving really good references if someone asked me how I was as a person.
“It would be easy for someone who isn’t invested in what I do to think there would be a problem because one minute he’s king of the world and the next minute nobody’s going to touch him. There must be a reason for that – he must be a bad egg, lost his abilities, lost his passion, lost his desire, but in my opinion that’s not true People can have their opinion on my abilities, but integrity, personality, love and passion for what I do – I know for a fact that people were quite inspired by the way I behaved in those times and maybe be watched themselves how they were living their life in football.
Hart’s Clarets career actually started with three successive clean sheets and he performed reasonably well despite Burnley’s struggles. Yet Dyche let him down as he searched for a solution, almost a last resort, explaining the decision to Hart before kick-off against West Ham.
“We lost 5-1 to Everton on Boxing Day, a terrible result,” Hart recalled. “None of the goals were an unforced goalkeeper error but I guess two of them with an extra step and a world class save you could keep them out but away from errors. The game next came and we were deep in it (relegation issues) He announced the team and I wasn’t there.
“I was like ‘oh okay, okay’ and I walked in and said ‘what’s going on?’ He made a point of saying that he would never tell you before he removed you from the team and his reasoning was that you never know what might happen in a training session. .
“I walked in and said ‘I’m a big boy, a warning, it was pretty awkward in there’, but I got over it. I went ‘why am I not?’ He said ‘basically Joe, I’ve tried everything, the only thing I haven’t tried is goalie and that’s what I’m going to do’.
“In all honesty, he didn’t expect me to be okay. I said “look it’s hard to hear but you’re on the manager”. Just to be clear, I’m going to behave like I play, train like I play and support the team like I play. That will always be what you get from me. I shook his hand and it was done.
“From then on Heats came in and were great, he was great and the team played West Ham at home and the team were great and Heats played the rest of the season. I was number two the rest of the season but in the FA Cup Popey played because it was part of his rehabilitation It was crazy but a situation.
Hart’s move to Turf Moor came unexpectedly, given that Heaton and Pope were already in place, albeit injured. It wasn’t a move on Hart’s radar, but he had a good feeling when Dyche called home to discuss a potential transfer and the deal was done.
“It was really informal, he didn’t want to have the conversation publicly so he came over,” Hart added. “He made reference to the fact that he played against me (for Northampton against Shrewsbury). He talked about what Burnley was like as a club – no bulls**t – you can come in and work hard.
“They had just finished seventh and had Europe. Sean believed in me as a goalkeeper and a player and he said his two goalkeepers were injured, he loved his two goalkeepers, but if you arrive and you have a good season and you can go somewhere else, everyone wins I respected that, he said he was a man of his word and he knew how much I loved doing the things and it sounded good.
“I came in, started playing straight away and played well, I was actually playing out of my skin but for us to be tonked. The Premier League is tough, we were trying to get into the Europa League group, we had a small squad and at the time there was a slight intention of trying to expand the way we play to not just smash and fight her in the other box and fierce defending, which is what Burnley are very good at.
“I played and played with all my heart and represented the club exactly the way I wanted. I personally felt that I was doing everything I could. I was leaving goals but you can’t save everything.”
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