Belfast Telegraph

Joe Hart left down and out at Manchester City

By Tim Rich

Joe Hart has accepted Manuel Pellegrini's decision to drop him and will not agitate for a move away from Manchester City.

The England goalkeeper is said to have taken the news that he will be on the bench for this afternoon's game with Norwich philosophically even though he is likely to go into England's internationals with Chile and Germany later this month as his club's second-choice goalkeeper.

Hart had expected to be left out after a mix-up with Matija Nastasic led to Chelsea's winner at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and Costel Pantilimon performed well at Newcastle in the League Cup on Wednesday night.

On Thursday, Pellegrini oversaw training with Pantilimon playing in front of a centre-back pairing of Martin Demichelis and Nastasic, both of whom are likely to start against Norwich.

The constant rotation of Manchester City's centre-backs, which has been exacerbated by an injury to their captain, Vincent Kompany, has been a factor undermining Hart.

Kompany will not play again until after the international break and Pellegrini admitted that the defensive errors which have left the club sixth in the Premier League had to be cut out.

"We are conscious of that," he said. "We have lost at least four points away from home that we did not deserve."

The former City goalkeeper, Joe Corrigan, pointed out that Hart has had to deal with a change of goalkeeping coach, with Xabier Mancisidor replacing Massimo Battara when Pellegrini took over from Roberto Mancini. On England duty, Hart is coached by Dave Watson, who worked with him when both were at Birmingham City.

"I worry what the impact of another foreign goalkeeping coach has on him," Corrigan said.

"He has had an Italian for three or four years, now he has a Spanish one and their management of goalkeeping isn't the same as a British goalkeeping coach.

"He has the England goalkeeping coach, Dave Watson, who I think is superb, but he only meets up with Dave when he is on international duty. It has got to be hard for him."

It will not have helped Hart's self-esteem either that Pantilimon was not included in the Romania squad to contest the upcoming World Cup finals play-off against Greece.

Even so, Pantilimon can expect to feature in at least the next three games for City – at home to Norwich and CSKA Moscow and away to Sunderland.

Hart has a vastly better relationship with Pellegrini than with Mancini but the question is whether he can afford to be City's second-choice goalkeeper in a World Cup year?

Pellegrini may have had little choice but to play Pantilimon.

The 6ft 8in Romanian, who played in all of Manchester City's run to the FA Cup final, announced that the match against Wigan would be his last.

Whether coincidentally or not, Mancini promptly dropped him for Hart for the showpiece at Wembley.

Mancini's sacking persuaded Pantilimon to stay but he was entitled to ask that, with Hart this badly out of form, whether he would ever be given a league game.

Since making a £3m move from Politehnica Timisoara in 2011, Pantilimon has played a dozen cup ties for City but has never made an appearance in the league. Had this pattern not been broken now, the club would have expected a transfer request in January.

Meanwhile, Alex McLeish, who took Hart to Birmingham on loan from Manchester City for the 2009-10 season, is certain his former charge will overcome the slump in form.

"Certainly Roy, in a team such as England's magnitude in world football, they wouldn't go – I don't think they would go – with a goalkeeper who's been out of his club football for a long period of time," McLeish said. "I do believe that Joe will get over this."

Belfast Telegraph


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