September 10, 1997. It will go down in English football for the day that Wembley mourned the sad loss of Princess Diana, who passed away 10 days before.
For then England keeper David Seaman, the fixture had extra significance: his 50th cap for the Three Lions and the night he captained the side. Who would have thought it would take 18 years for the next goalkeeper to lead out England? Step up; Joe Hart.
Shoot takes a look at the Manchester City shot-stopper who made history when he led out the national side in Alicante on Friday night.
The Shrewsbury-born goalkeeper may have won two Premier League titles, but this surely was his proudest night in professional football.
Where did it all start for Hart?
Hart was born in Shrewsbury and his talent was clear from a young age. There was no question about it; this kid was going to be a special talent. He progressed through the Shrewsbury academy and, when only 15, travelled with the first-team to a fixture in Exeter.
Despite being a non-used substitute on that occasion, this gave Hart belief and confidence that he would make something of himself at the Shrews. That was to be the case. In April 2004, just one day short of his 17th birthday, he made his senior debut. The dream had become a reality. The fans were impressed.
And so were a number of professional clubs, with Everton looking the most likely to pursue his signature when they paid a visit to watch Hart in November 2005. However, Man City was where he belonged, and when the Citizens’ goalkeeping coach Tim Flowers visited the Gay Meadow stadium, there was no question that a move would soon be on the cards.
What happened next?
They say in football that you need a bit of luck to get to the top. The same applied to Hart, as he cemented his position at Man City as their number one goalkeeper for a period of the 2008-09 season following the departure of former number one, Andreas Isaksson.
However, when Shay Given made the move to Manchester in January 2009, inevitably Hart became a friend with the Manchester City dugout again. Having played no games following the Irishman’s arrival, it was announced in June 2009 that he would spend the following season on loan at Birmingham City. Here he blossomed and gained imperative Premier League experience, so much so that in 2010, he earnt a place in the prestigious PFA Player of the Year.
How did he get to this point in his career?
Ever since becoming a regular in the first-team set up at City a year later, Hart has dazzled the Man City crowd. In 2011, he was awarded the Premier League Golden Glove after he kept 18 clean sheets for his side, and also earnt a FA Cup winners’ medal thanks to a Yaya Toure goal in the final at Wembley – it was City’s first FA Cup triumph since defeating Leicester in the 1969 final.
But a year later he surely accomplished his greatest accolade of them all as he helped City to their first top-flight title in 44 years in that game against QPR on the final day of the 2011-12 season.
How much has he impressed on the international front?
Hart made his first international appearance for England at under-19 level when at Shrewsbury in 2005. He progressed through the England youth system and played a key part in England’s 2009 European Squad at Under 21 level – frustratingly for the youngster he was suspended for the final in which eventually Stuart Pearce’s men lost to Germany 4-0.
At this point, he was on the fringes of the senior team and had made his debut for Fabio Capello’s side a year earlier in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago, replacing David James at half-time.
Despite being included in the 23-man squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Hart failed to make an impact and only made his debut in a major international tournament at Euro 2012. Since then though, he has became a regular in Roy Hodgson’s team and made his 50th cap in March this year in a 1-1 draw against Italy at the Juventus Stadium.
Why is he rated so highly?
Hart’s reflexes are simply brilliant. In recent years he has been known for his late dives across goal which has earnt his side crucial Premier League wins – his most impressive arguably coming against Swansea in May this year at the Liberty Stadium.
On top 0f this, he has also been known for his accurate goal kicks, making the threat of a Manchester City counter attack constant.
Super Stat: Joe Hart has not kept a clean sheet at the Etihad Stadium since August 29.