With a World Cup winner and an established back-up already standing in the way of Joe Hart and Tottenham’s number one jersey, it’s easy to assume the former England goalkeeper is ready to see out his career on cushy wage with minimal expectation.
We’ve seen it all before – Richard Wright, Rob Green and Scott Carson are three notable former England internationals who have been content with a back-up role at a top Premier League club once they hit the wrong side of their 30s.
Of course, some goalkeepers actually peak in their early-to-mid 30s, but that is not the case with Hart, who was England’s first choice at the 2014 World Cup but has spent the last four years trying to recover from a crushing rejection by Pep Guardiola.
Upon his arrival at the Etihad, the Manchester City boss almost immediately ousted Hart – now aged 33 – and although City initially had some problems in finding Hart’s successor, the Englishman never found a route back in to the first team.
Loan spells at Torino and West Ham ensued with mixed success before a permanent move to Burnley offered hope of a revival, only for Hart to fall down the pecking order behind Tom Heaton and then Nick Pope.
So how does a 33-year-old goalkeeper in decline find himself signing for a top six club with renewed hope of playing European football again under one the game’s most prominent managers, Jose Mourinho?
“It’s not a signing that’s going to excite the fans, but when you look at it from other angles it’s a very functional signing,” former Tottenham and England goalkeeper Paul Robinson told bookmakers.co.uk.
“He’s had a difficult few seasons. He’s been out of form, he’s been left out of the team, and it’s a completely different role being a number two or number three goalkeeper. It’s a different mentality, you’re training all day and all week with very little chance of playing at the weekend unless there’s an injury or suspension.
‘It’s a Good Signing’
“But Tottenham are competing in a lot of competitions and there’s going to be a lot of games. He’s still of an age where he can play week-in-week-out, so it really will strengthen the goalkeeping situation at Spurs.
“For me, it’s a good signing. It’s not one I saw coming, I thought Joe would still have ambitions of being first choice at a Premier League side, maybe a bottom half side but getting to play regularly between now and the end of his career, but Spurs is also a great opportunity for him and it’s a signing that works for both parties.”
It has been suggested that Mourinho has turned to Hart in order boost Tottenham’s number of British players within their first-team squad in order to meet the Premier League’s Homegrown Player Rule.
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Although Hart being English will have added to his appeal, Robinson believes the former Man City keeper will not settle for second or third best behind Hugo Lloris or Paulo Gazzaniga.
“I think it’s an interesting one and how the dynamics work for the three of them,” he said.
“Obviously you’ve got a lot of experience in a World Cup winner and top-class goalkeeper like Hugo Lloris and he’s number one, but Gazzaniga came in to the side last year and did ok.
“Whether he’ll be moving on and Joe replaces him as number two, we’ll have to see, but I can’t imagine Joe Hart is going to come in just to tick a box as a third-choice goalkeeper.
‘He Will Still Harbour Ambitions’
“We’ve seen that happen with the likes of Rob Green, Scott Carson and Lee Grant in other squads, but I don’t think Hart will have his mind set on that.
“There’s no doubt it will have been a factor in identifying Hart as a signing, but knowing what Joe is like he will still harbour ambitions of playing and I don’t think he’ll consider himself in that bracket of goalkeepers I’ve just mentioned, he will see it as an opportunity to play for a top six Premier League club who play in a fantastic stadium.”
There is always the chance that faith in his ability from a manager of Mourinho’s status and a club of Tottenham’s prestige could breathe some much-needed confidence back into Hart’s game, and Robinson believes Lloris is far from invincible when it comes to owning Spurs’ number one spot.
He said: “Hugo’s form has been up and down these past couple of seasons and with the amount of competitions Spurs are going to be competing in next season, there’s going to be a lot of games, so there’s going to opportunities for him to play.
“I don’t see him going there and being happy to just be number three, but when you look at it from a Spurs point of view, that’s a strong batch of goalkeepers they have to work with.
“His experience will bring something extra to the changing room as well. He’s been number two at Burnley, which is a different mentality, but if he can get his head around the role of being an asset to the changing room then he’ll be a signing that works for Spurs.”
Spurs get their pre-season underway on Saturday with the visit of Ipswich Town to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with Hart raring to go at his new club.