Super Sunday reporter Patrick Davison swaps his microphone for a pen as he blogs about his interview with Joe Hart.
The man with all the questions, Patrick Davison, has all the answers this week as he gives us an insight into his Super Sunday interview with Joe Hart.
Deep inside the Etihad, a few feet from the tunnel and opposite the manager’s office, is ‘The 2012 Room’.
It’s filled with memories from their first, dramatic, Premier League title triumph. On the walls are pictures of Mario Balotelli’s ‘Why Always Me?’ moment at Old Trafford, Vincent Kompany’s decisive goal in the return fixture against United and, of course, pride of place goes to Sergio Aguero and the most famous strike of a ball this league has ever seen in their final day thriller against QPR.
The room also used to contain a replica of the Premier League trophy. Not anymore. With the future of this City team now in question it feels like the right place to speak to a man who has been there for all of it. The highs and the lows.
It was an interview I expected to be difficult. Having been in the tunnel and seen Joe Hart and his teammates leave Old Trafford last Sunday, I would have understood Hart being slightly spikey and unwilling to talk.
After all, who would be happy with a reporter turning up at their work and asking them exactly why everything seemed to be going so badly?
But the England goalkeeper has a reputation for honesty and this week was no different. Hart didn’t need the truth coaxing out of him, he was straight-talking, even blunt, about the collapse of City’s season from the very start of the interview.
“We’re not in the place where we want to be,” he opened with, pulling no punches.
“We wanted to be challenging for the title like in previous years. Obviously, that’s not the case right now.”
Some of his most honest words, which have already attracted one or two headlines, were used to defend a manager who has bore the brunt of the criticism for what Hart admits has been team underperformance.
Hart added: “People have been disappointed in their own performances. We’ve let the manager down a few times and we’ve baffled ourselves a little bit because we feel like we’ve got the quality to beat anyone.”
Two things laid at Manuel Pellegrini’s door are that he struggles to control a group of superstars while, tactically, lacking flexibility and being stubbornly devoted to a 4-4-2 formation.
Hart sees it differently.
“He’s been great,” he said.
“He’s hard, he kind of says it how it is and you can’t ask for much more than that from a manager.
“He’s got principles that we work to, that we train to and we’ve let him down a few times in that case.”
There’s more. City have, on average, fielded the oldest side in the Premier League this season but Hart talks of a team with “a lot more history to create.”
He also tells me of a united dressing room but one filled with criticism and harsh words when it needs to be.
Hart left the interview happy enough (at least that’s what he told me) but he’ll be more focused and a lot less talkative when I see him again in the tunnel this week.
There’ll never be a room at the Etihad filled with memories of this season, as there is of 2012. But, in his words, City must take something from this season. That means finishing top four by winning their six remaining games – starting with West Ham on Sunday.
You can see Patrick’s full Joe Hart interview on Super Sunday on Sky Sports 1 HD from 12.30pm, before Manchester City host West Ham, kick-off at 1.30pm.
Joe Hart: Man City players have let Manuel Pellegrini down