Someone recently asked me why Joe Hart chose Burnley.
Simple answer: Joe Hart didn’t choose Burnley. Circumstance afforded him the opportunity. At the time of his move there were no other suitors in the Premier League, but injuries to Tom Heaton and Nick Pope forced Sean Dyche’s hand and Joe was ready and waiting. It was the ideal scenario for both parties.
Now? Not so much. Joe, who started with three clean sheets from his opening three games, finds himself in the middle of a unique goalkeeping situation. Burnley have three international goalkeepers on their books – and all of them are now fit. One is the club captain, one went to the World Cup with England last summer and other other is Joe Hart – a man second only to Petr Cech for all-time Premier League clean sheets.
Ironically, Joe is now the victim of that circumstance. Burnley’s form meant a change to the position was a matter of when, not if. “He didn’t come in under any illusions, and I told him it would be a tough season,” said Dyche when pressed on the matter ahead of The Clarets’ FA Cup clash with Barnsley this weekend. “Eventually as manager you have to change people in the format. I had to look at the goalkeeping situation and that is just the way it goes.”
Indeed it is. One look at Fulham’s use of three goalkeepers inside 10 Premier League games this season is enough proof to support those claims. Yet despite Dyche’s assurance that “a lot of things that have happened this season have not been down to Joe” the 31-year-old will understandably be in contemplative mood. Dyche knew reintroducing Heaton would spark a reaction against West Ham last weekend; He boasts a strong relationship with fans and his return gave the team a timely boost, which he enhanced even further with a dramatic late save from Andy Carroll.
A second successive win at Huddersfield has cemented Heaton’s spot until Burnley hit another barren run. Should Pope, in line for a possible comeback from injury on Saturday, return to the form that saw him gain international recognition last season, you can see Dyche shuffling the pack for a repeat reaction to the Heaton call-up. Harsh, but inevitable.
That potentially leaves Joe with a decision to make. As things stand his stock is a lot higher than it was this time last year, but a lack of football between now and the end of the season will have him assessing options for a fourth successive summer. It’s a remarkable situation he knew was coming – even more so when you consider the ex-Manchester City man has made the second-most saves behind Cardiff’s Neil Etheridge this term and, as his manager alluded to, hasn’t been at fault for the majority of the 42 goals Burnley have conceded so far.
The natural progression at Turf Moor may see Pope as the established No1 with either Heaton or Hart on the bench. Whoever’s left as the No3 will then most likely depart.
Who that will be depends on how Dyche deals with his circumstantial dilemma. May battle commence.