The Hart of West Ham

Credit: Nazionale Calcio

August will mark the return of Joe Hart to the Premier League after the England stopper completed a season-long loan to West Ham. Having spent last season at Torino, there is an air of excitement about seeing Hart turn out for the Hammers next season. However, some fans – like myself – are more skeptical of what the Manchester City goalkeeper actually brings to the club that is not already there. On the surface, it appears a great signing – a proven international with seventy-one England caps, two Premier League winners medals and a four time Premier League Golden Glove winner. The deal itself is certainly in our favour, yet Hart remains an unconvincing commodity for some.

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Undoubtedly the biggest permutation of Hart’s loan will be on Adrian. The Spaniard has been ever-present between the sticks since establishing himself as first choice by the end of his first season at the club during the 2013/14 season. Despite losing his place to Darren Randolph between October 2016 and April 2017, Adrian rebounded from his early season struggles to finish the season strongly. Against Everton and Tottenham, he demonstrated just how good he can be and kept two clean sheets in the process. In terms of reaction saves, Adrian is one of the best in the league, frequently demonstrating superb athleticism and creativity in his attempts to keep the ball from crossing the line. Simply put, Adrian is too good to warm the bench. A loan might be ideal, but that just leaves the club at the same stage they were at when this Summer began. Even then, what could Adrian possibly do in a year to convince the higher-ups at West Ham that he is good enough that he has not already done in his four seasons in East London?

Likewise, the arrival of Hart raises questions about Randolph’s future at the club. As the 2018 World Cup looms on the horizon, there is a strong possibility that the Irishman will look to consolidate his place with first-team football. Whilst I do believe there is more chance of Randolph staying than Adrian, the former’s departure seems more beneficial to the player at this stage. Despite being a solid backup and producing saves of real quality on occasions, Randolph proved last season that he is too susceptible to make the ‘No 1’ spot his own. He provided Adrian with a route back into the first team and the Spaniard responded by highlighting the difference in quality between the two. As it currently stands, Randolph is third choice and with a lengthy cup run far from guaranteed, game time will be hard to come by if Adrian stays put.

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David Sullivan’s recent comments and Adrian’s understandable response surely pave the way for the Spaniard’s exit. In referring to Hart as the ‘best goalkeeper’ he has worked with, Sullivan has once again shown a worrying disregard and lack of professionalism. Now, Hart was fantastic during his spell at Birmingham and established himself as Manchester City’s ‘No 1’ the following season, so why then – at a time when he is arguably entering the peak years of his career at 30 years old – is Hart being loaned out for a second consecutive season? With no option to buy at the end of the loan deal, West Ham now face the reality of needing a new ‘No 1’ as early as next Summer. Considering the outspoken nature of the owners and a history of failing to attract key transfer targets, short term gain could result in long term pain. Essentially, Joe Hart was an unnecessary signing. A goalkeeper was far down the list of priorities, yet the second signing of the window has become one of the highest paid players at the club (even with his parent club paying the bulk of his wages) just weeks after David Gold claimed money still needed to be found for a striker.

Not only do West Ham now risk losing a keeper as talented and underrated as Adrian, but they stand to lose a player who actually takes pride in the shirt. There are few players at the club who are more passionate than the Spaniard. From that penalty against Everton to his most recent tweet reiterating his commitment to the badge, Adrian has shown a love for the club that should make him a cult hero. He is the type of maverick that West Ham supporters have traditionally fallen in love with, yet such a reciprocation appears absent with the signing of Hart and on the back of an unconvincing 2016/17 campaign. With loyalty and genuine pride such a rarity in today’s game, I cannot help but feel that the potential loss of Adrian is yet another case of West Ham losing a bit more of their heart and character. Whilst that might seem like hyperbole, it is difficult to deny that the club are losing a bit of their edge in their pursuit of glory.

Is Joe Hart an upgrade on Adrian? Nothing over the last three years suggests so. He was the worst of a bad bunch for England at Euro 2016, but that was merely the culmination of a downturn in form that had begun to unravel as early as 2013. Subsequently, Hart was deemed surplus to requirements by Pep Guardiola and did little to convince the City manager otherwise in Italy – something made even more alarming by the flappable nature of his replacement, Claudio Bravo. Add to that the lack of ‘top’ teams interested in signing a shot-stopper as supposedly talented as the former Head & Shoulders poster-boy and it is a wonder that Hart is still as highly regarded as he once was by some.

Both Adrian and Randolph are guilty of making crucial mistakes, but Hart continues to be a serial offender on that front. At this stage of his career, those mistakes cannot be attributed to inexperience as they once were. Such flaws would be forgivable if Hart did not posses an inherent self-belief that he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. His arrogance is all too clear, despite not even being the best England has to offer anymore. That title belongs to Jack Butland and it won’t be long before Jordan Pickford overtakes him (if he hasn’t already). Unfortunately, his inflated ego continues to be pampered to by supporters convinced by his reputation alone. There is no denying his talents, but a little perspective is needed. The Joe Hart of 2009-2013 would be a great signing, but the Joe Hart of 2015-2017 inspires little excitement. Ideally, West Ham will have Hart and Adrian at their disposal for the upcoming season, but such a luxury seems increasingly unlikely.

Adrian might not be perfect, but is Hart really any better?

How do you think Joe Hart will fare at West Ham this season? Is he a good signing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Featured Image: Nazionale Calcio