Joe Hart: “If I get the chance to play, it will still mean everything”
Sat 09 January 2021, 13:38|Tottenham Hotspur
Joe Hart has seen it all in the FA Cup.
He’s lived the ‘schoolboy dream’ by lifting the famous old trophy at Wembley (2011), suffered the heartbreak of a losing final (2013) and as we prepare to face Marine in the third round on Sunday (5pm), in a career in the competition that stretches back to 2004, he’s faced the jeopardy of taking on non-league opposition, and being on the wrong side of that ‘magic of the FA Cup’.
That was back in 2004 when, as an unused substitute, Joe, then 17, was part of the Shrewsbury squad beaten by Histon of the Southern League in the first round. A year later, Joe made his debut in the competition as Shrewsbury made amends by beating Braintree in the first round. Six years later, he climbed the steps at Wembley to lift the trophy after City’s 1-0 win against Stoke, their first trophy since 1976.
“It was my first trophy,” reflected Joe this week. “Growing up, I didn’t bother dreaming about lifting trophies, I just liked playing football. I didn’t realise the dream when I did it, and I did something that I never really expected to be part of. It was the first trophy Manchester City had won in years, and it was a big moment.”
It’s fair to say few players in our ranks have been involved in anything like the game we’re about to play on Merseyside.
These matches are somewhat of a rarity for us. Indeed, we’ve only faced non-league opposition on 11 occasions since becoming a Football League club all the way back in 1908, and the last was over 25 years ago against Altrincham in 1995.
At that time, Altrincham were in the Conference, now the National League - the fifth tier of English football. Based in Crosby, Marine play in the eighth tier, Northern Premier League Division One North West, and have already come through seven rounds to earn their place in round three.
“It’s exactly what is says on the tin,” said Joe, recalling his experiences. “This is why we all fell in love with football. I’ll be honest, if I get the chance to play it will still mean everything to me, it always has done and always will do.
“We all talk about football being 11 against 11, and Marine will have exactly the same mindset, which is to try to win the game.
“You have to respect the guys you’re playing against. They will all have their own story of why they are playing at the level they are playing, some guys will be playing above and beyond where they thought they would be, some will have slipped through the net and maybe had the ability to play higher, but have had to settle for what they are doing.
“They are in the ultimate position of just being able to go for it. They will think ‘Spurs will make changes’, and there all the clichés you get with these games in the FA Cup, ‘they don’t fancy it’, all that, and we’ll have to prove them otherwise.”