Belfast Telegraph

Joe Hart: England must prove they can be different this time

By Simon Peach

Joe Hart has endured enough inquests following failures in major tournaments to know what lies around the corner if England's Euro 2016 journey ends in the same culs-de-sac as those he has experienced in South Africa, Poland/Ukraine and Brazil.

Facing his fourth international tournament in France, the England goalkeeper has, unsurprisingly, developed the weary cynicism that comes with high hopes ultimately delivering nothing but disappointment.

The forced smile, the professional answer, the straight bat - all were deployed as the Manchester City number one looked ahead to England's Group B opener against Russia tomorrow night.

Yet rather than betray a sense of exasperation with the recurring themes that accompany England on the big stage, Hart's display in front of the cameras hinted more at a determination for the action to start and the shadow boxing to end.

For Hart, the time for talking has stopped. It is now all about delivering and, perhaps, forcing a change of narrative by the time the next tournament comes around, rather than have to answer the same old question - can it be different this time?

"It's a tough one because I have answered it so many times," Hart said. "We are going to have to prove that there is something different.

"It's all very well me thinking it. I believe in every team I am part of, but it is down to us to prove it on the pitch that there is something different.

"I'm not driven by what has gone. I'm driven by wanting to improve and win things. I'm motivated by what we have as a nation - what's gone is gone."

But at 29, with three experiences of international heartache already inflicted scars, is he in a rush to make it count before the opportunities run out?

"Yeah, but I feel like that every day and every game," he said. "I have no God given right to win a tournament in my career, so it will not be down to the fact that I may only have six years left, so I had better win one.

"I want to win everything that I am involved in and this one is going to be no different."

It all begins with Russia this weekend and a first meeting with the 2018 World Cup hosts since a 2-1 defeat in Moscow during the Euro 2008 qualification campaign.

Leonid Slutsky's team will provide Roy Hodgson's players with a step into the unknown, but Hart insists that England will have every angle covered in the Stade Velodrome.

"It's not going into the unknown," Hart said. "We can see as much footage as we want and we have played against some of them in the Champions League. From my perspective, I have played CSKA Moscow a few times with City.

"We are prepared and we can't use that as an excuse."

Belfast Telegraph