A picture’s worth a thousand words

We need to talk about this photograph. I want it to go away but I just can’t stop looking at it. In footballing terms, it’s the saddest photo I think I’ve ever seen. Pure ecstasy juxtaposed with downright misery. A player recently signed for his passing ability with a player soon likely to depart because of his lack of passing ability. City’s next ten years side by side with City’s past ten years. A smiling Stones and a broken Hart.

Hart Stones

It feels like this photograph just shouldn’t be. In John Stones’ first interview as a City player he talked about his friendship with Joe Hart and how he’d already played some sort of prank on him. Oh the banter these two were going to have. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities for lolz in the City dressing room: the jokes, the wind-ups, the catchphrases. It’s absolutely tragic. In a footballing sense, the friendship and camaraderie between the two could, and should, have led to an in-depth understanding of each other’s play on the pitch. It feels like both City and England have lost out on part of a defensive partnership as Joe Hart’s future at City hangs in the balance.

At first I thought I could make a little joke about this photograph and get at least 3 faves on Twitter: ‘When your mate’s steaming but you know you have to drive home’ or something like that. Jesus that is bad. As you can see, I was struggling to think of a funny one and then it kind of dawned on me. It’s not a laughing matter. There’s nothing funny about this situation. This absolutely sucks.

A few of my mates have said they haven’t felt this way since Shaun Wright-Phillips left and I get that feeling too, to a degree. Something about Joe Hart, though, feels different. He’s England’s number 1. He’s the link between City before the money and since the money; that little reminder that we could buy a player from Shrewsbury Town for £600,000 and make them a success. He acknowledges the fans, he speaks from his heart, he fought the English players at City “curse”, he’s an excellent ambassador for the club. And he’s absolutely class at saving shots. I think of that 0-0 at Spurs, I think of Dortmund, of Barcelona, of Dimitri Payet running off celebrating scoring a free kick last season only to see Hart stop it at the last second. This proud, confident and let’s face it, handsome man shouldn’t be looking or feeling as despondent as this snapshot suggests.

Hart Stones

At the same time, yes, it is just a snapshot. I saw a follow-up picture where Hart is smiling. But he’s not really smiling. His mouth his closed and there’s sadness in his eyes. I swear, when I saw that first picture I just felt wretched. It’s one of those photographs that a drunken Ciaran Murray really over analysed. I was sat in the pub after the game pulling apart every tiny nuance. John Stones has only been at City a week and it already feels like he’s part of the furniture. Here he is, with his post-match sweaty, ruffled hair and his arm around Joe Hart in his pristine kit and not a hair out of place on his dandruff free head. An elated John Stones had just finished his first ever Champions League game and, in the photo, you can see the logo proudly emblazoned on the sleeve of his City shirt whereas on Joe’s, it’s across his sad, shameful, symbolic substitute’s bib. Look at that dejected number 1 on Hart’s shorts. Look at the JH1 across the redundant gloves he holds in his hand. Look at how Stones is almost tugging on his arm for him to embrace the 5-0 victory but how Hart’s body language is turned away. He just seems to want to be left alone and to get the hell away from the pitch, the glare of the public eye and the flashbulbs that have led to me overanalysing a photograph and writing this blog.

Look at the word across Hart’s bib. Respect. When Joey Barton is taking time out from reading Nietzsche, smoking cigars and playing for Rangers to suggest City lack common decency, you know we’ve hit a low point.

Barton made a valid point that Hart “could of” gone on to bigger and better things himself but wanted to be a City legend. It cuts me up to look at this picture and see John Stones, who’s only been here five minutes but is a likely future City legend trying to gee up a deflated Joe Hart, who has been such an integral part of City’s recent past.

We all know what’s happened. Guardiola wants to win title after title. He wants players that fit his system. Joe Hart, for all his excellent reflex saves, always had a problem with his distribution and never seemed too comfortable with the ball at his feet. Unfortunately, in Guardiola’s teams, there’s just no room for a goalkeeper who is unable to fit the necessary specifications. I just hope Joe is treated with the respect he deserves as this situation is resolved.


It’s the human side of the photograph that got me right in the feels. I think we can all empathise with Joe at this point if we’ve ever felt left out, unwanted or jealous even. Stones’ place couldn’t be more secure and as City have now almost certainly qualified for the Champions League; his face tells the story of someone delighted to be embarking on his maiden voyage in Europe’s elite competition. Hart, who has been such an integral, consistent part of City’s European excursions up until this point, probably realised he’s not coming along for this ride and for all John Stones’ affectionate attempts at collective celebration, Hart just can’t make his face lie about how he feels. The emotion in this picture will linger with me forever.

Written by Ciaran Murray

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21 comments on “A picture’s worth a thousand words
  1. Please… Don’t feel sorry for Joe Hart.
    This article portrays him as a Manchester Lad through and through, and how it must be so devastating for him to leave.
    He’s a Shrewsbury lad – and it didn’t take much for him to leave his hometown club when the money came calling.
    He’s probably only a bit teary because no English club will be able to pay him what City do, and he’s going to have to move abroad.
    He’s a mercenary – just like every other football player these days.

  2. This article, and the attached photo, are clearly slanted to express a point of view about the situation with Joe, and when you are using Joey Barton quotes to back your argument up then you KNOW you are in trouble (just go through the cctv archives and watch the lovely Joey beating some kid senseless outside McDonalds, or physically attacking Aguero when he was sent off against City, or read about him stubbing his cigar in the eye of a City academy player, or damaging the eyesight of Ousmane Dabo by attacking him in training – you get the point?)

    Joe was told what was needed. He has failed to come up to scratch. Pep wants somebody else. The same as Nasri, Toure and Bony.

    Joe will go on and be a great keeper somewhere else, where he will also make a fortune. He will always get a heroes welcome back at City and City will go on and be a better TEAM without him (or at least a team more in the Guardiola image).

    • You’ve nailed it…terribly naïve piece under the Typical City banner which appears to have been written by someone clearly too young and inexperienced to see through the Barton and Talksport agendas.

  3. I think the piece is well written and there is much of it I like – however to say Joe is being treated badly is nothing more than speculation and is more in keeping the Talk Sport/Sky/BT style of generating stories to fill the 24/7 slots, none of us know the detail of personal conversations etc and to give credence to the words from Mr Barton does nothing for the piece you have written.

    I heard his interview on Talk Sport radio and to be honest he seemed to be the all to often bitter sounding person. Of course its a different club than when he left – if only for the fact since he’s gone we’ve won things.

    Comments about decency and respect are again based on speculation and to be honest I think your lines “When Joey Barton is taking time out from reading Nietzsche, smoking cigars and playing for Rangers to suggest City lack common decency, you know we’ve hit a low point.” are just odd, since exactly when has he become the font of wisdom and advice on respect, decency and what goes on behind closed doors at Man City or indeed elsewhere?

  4. Some of the comments on here absolutely infuriate me.
    In what way is Hart being ‘treated badly’ by the club? In what universe do City fans agree with a loathsome creature like Barton when he claims the club are ‘disgusting’?

    Where is the evidence of this?

    No one at City has mistreated Hart in any way whatever!
    He is still part of the squad, he’s still training. The manager hasn’t criticised him in any way.
    All Pep has done is exercise his right to put him on the bench and choose Willy…explaining he liked his attitude in training.

    Can he not drop a player? Does Hart have the divine right to a starting place just because he’s been here so long?
    Players get dropped all the time and none throw their toys out I the pram.
    Does Zaba, does Clichy, does Bony when someone else is selected ahead of them?
    It was Zaba, when asked about Hart on Sky, who told the simple truth: It’s all about the TEAM.

    Check Twitter btw…you’ll find Hart hasn’t got the support you seem to think!! Most feel very much as I do…they back the manager and the CLUB. It’s the club’s interest which must always come first.

    We’ve just got the best manager on the planet and ALREADY his decisions are being questioned…not just by the odd tabloid but by supporters!

    Typical bloody City fans..

  5. While I agree that Joe will always be a legendary figure at City, I have a pretty different reaction to what’s happening now. Seeing this image, and hearing that Joe is not being shy about his displeasure with Pep (in training sessions and in games), a part of me is disappointed in his lack of professionalism here. I feel like working hard and not actively trying to undermine your manager isn’t too much to ask of someone who’s paid more money in a week than I make in a year.

    More generally, the transition from Pellegrini to Pep was never going to be completely smooth: like most other top-quality coaches, Pep is extremely demanding of his players, and it has to be tough to go into that from Pellegrini’s super-laid-back regime. And whether because of ego, work ethic, or psychological makeup, some players just aren’t a good fit for a tough manager. I hadn’t expected that Joe would end up leaving, but I did expect some departures.

    Ultimately, the club’s ownership aren’t satisfied with City being expensive underachievers every year, and they clearly see Guardiola as a big part of reaching that next level.

  6. The Hart situation takes my mind back to Ray Clemence. He was the Liverpool number one, established in the England squad competing with Shilton and Corrigan for the Jersey. It was a shock at the time that Liverpool dropped, then sold, him. He went to Spurs and carried on being a top keeper,and carried on competing with Shilton for the England Jersey. Unfortunately for us City fans, as good as Corrigan was, he couldn’t get a look in with those two around.

  7. that piece was a beautiful homage to a fabulous man city legend JH1 , I too for the one and only time in my life agree with barton , it is truly awful to discard him like yesterdays news. I can see how pep is going to be a new start for city but i will never forgive him for this . its just so wrong 😢

    • Sorry, but forgive Pep for what? We have no idea what’s happened behind the scenes. He’s not been discarded, he’s on the bench…we have a large squad ,what if the others whinged when not selected..
      If he loves the club, he should swallow his pride and work hard to meet manager’s expectations…all the rest are!

  8. Why is it sad – these players get a lot of money ,if they are no longer up to standard then out they go ?I get the impression that some people think they know better than the greatest manager in European history – some really need to give their head a wobble!!

  9. Excellent piece.
    I completely agree with you.
    Joe Hart bleeds sky blue and someone like that should be cherished not treated like this.

  10. Oh! This feels awful. On one side, there’s Arsenal who fail to boot out mediocre players, and here, such a fine talent (albeit lacking certain abilities) shall be sacrificed. I support Pep 100%, but this feel tremendously sad.

  11. You’re talking as if he has gone or is going, and he may well if he doesn’t want to stay and fight, the past has shown him to be a fighter though. He is on the bench and has been there before. City will sign a new Kepper as the need three with Gunn not at that level yet. An older keepr I’d have though and Bravo at around £12m according to most decent outlets fits the bill. More of a challenge to both Hart and Caballero. Pep uses squads fully, Hart just has to wait for Caballero to balls up which in fairness for me he did somewhat in th sunderland game. Hart has shown before he responds well to being dropped, his so called passing play is better than Cabs but unlike Bravo he hasn’t been asked to play the role pep wants. The English keeper style is different so no amount of comparissons to Bravo prove much. Oh by the way Hart cost £100k not £600k his own words after the 12 fa cup final in the chaging room

  12. Excellent piece, the whole Hart situation sickens me especially as I do not believe that Cabellero is any better than Hart with the ball at his feet and is not in the same class as a goalkeeper. The club should hang it’s head, I sometimes think we are becoming a blue Utd with the decency and integrity becoming surplus to requirements along apparently with our Joe.

  13. Nice write up other than acknowledging anything Joey Barton has to say about anything. Barton’s a worthless bitter yob, see 2012 QPR @ MCFC EPL final match, “the club he played for” was never going to reach the heights “the club he watches now” has, and the club that he watches has shown more than enough respect to Hart. Respect today in football ultimately is a players weekly wages.

  14. Barton is an absolute cock who has always had ideas way above his station, Joe gets extremely well paid – with such riches comes responsibility, which unfortunately he seems to have neglected of late .he and several others have had an extremely easy ride in the past 2 years – time to shape up or ship out !!

  15. Many players have passed through City’s dressing room over the decades, some great, some ordinary, but there has been another characteristic, blue blood. In my time the names include Ken Barnes, Dave Ewing, Glyn Pardoe, Alan Oakes, Mike Doyle, Neil Young and others, you get the drift. Joe Hart, for me, has joined that exalted company.

  16. “It was like taking an animal to the vet”. The father of Gary Owen driving his heartbroken son to sign for West Brom.

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