It’s really sad to hear when a player gets abuse from his own fans. It’s even more sad when it happens to be at your own club.
Joe Hart returned to the fold for Saturday’s FA Cup clash with Peterborough United and, despite having a fairly uneventful afternoon on the pitch, he was subjected to foul abuse from a small number of Burnley supporters behind his goal.
Hart arrived from Manchester City in 2018 and it was a move that took fans by surprise. Nick Pope had just received an injury but Tom Heaton was just returning from his own period on the sidelines. The former England number-one then went on to take Heaton’s place in the starting line-up and this didn’t necessarily sit too well with a number of the fans. Still, his performances on the pitch were consistent and that was admirable during a really tough period that saw the Clarets end the year with genuine fear for relegation.
Changing of the tide
It just so happened that Hart had a nightmare on his last Premier League start for the Clarets. The keeper was culpable for three of the five Boxing Day goals that Everton smashed past Burnley; it was a match that probably ranked as the worst of the Sean Dyche era. It also proved to be the catalyst for a revival in form as Dyche opted for radical change. In came Heaton, Phil Bardsey, Dwight McNeil and a return to 4-4-2. Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood became a regular partnership and a real feel-good factor was beginning to return.
Heaton’s big advantage over Hart was communication. He was never afraid to bark instructions at James Tarkowski or Ben Mee. He was a leader. Hart was a much quieter presence and the defence didn’t look quite as secure when they weren’t being bellowed at from behind. But that doesn’t mean Hart was a poor keeper.
Hart made some fantastic saves whilst in goal. Some of those score-lines really could have been cricket scores had it not been for Hart’s superb reflexes. He made some brilliant stops against Man City and Chelsea and those matches both finished 5-0 and 4-0 respectively! The collective team was a shambles. Heaton’s return did help but so did the experience of Bardsley, the exuberance of McNeil, the permanent return of Barnes and the return to the formation that Dyche had built his successes on. This was a much more complex problem than many people could comprehend.
Irrespective of Hart’s actual performances, no player at any football club deserves abuse from their own supporters. Burnley pride themselves on being a humble fan-base, and the majority of those fans are, so it is such a shame when certain people choose to tarnish that reputation. The argument that you can say what you want if you pay for the ticket is absolute nonsense. If you bought a ticket for your child’s nativity play, it doesn’t give you the right to shout that the guy playing Joseph is a rubbish actor! You would be buying the ticket to support your child in the same way that you should be supporting your team.
He has been linked with Aston Villa and that would be a solid move for both parties. Hart is a good goalkeeper. Many people will tell you he is useless without really analysing the situation too much. He is certainly an effective stop-gap solution with Heaton sadly now out for the season. A new challenge would do him the world of good.