London (AFP) – England goalkeeper Joe Hart has consciously toned down his pre-match routine after criticism he was excessively motivated during his country’s ill-fated Euro 2016 campaign, he confessed to reporters on Monday.
Hart was caught on camera thumping his chest and bellowing at his team-mates in the tunnel prior to games at Euro 2016, with former England striker Ian Wright accusing him of being “too pumped up”.
At fault for goals against Wales in the group phase and in England’s calamitous last 16 defeat by Iceland, Hart was then frozen out at Manchester City and is rebuilding his reputation on loan at Torino.
“I am always trying to learn and adapt. Obviously the Euros wasn’t my finest hour,” Hart said ahead of England’s friendly against Spain on Tuesday.
“I needed to have a think about how I played and what I did, and maybe change a few things; speaking to the people that count, seeking advice.
“(Interim England manager) Gareth (Southgate) and I spoke about it. You find a way. I’ve got a lot of energy and a lot of passion. Questionably, it could have been too much.
“There are ways of channelling that. I am constantly evolving, constantly trying to be the best I can be, and learning from things that didn’t go too well is definitely a way of doing that.”
Hart, 29, has become so popular with Torino’s fans that a group of the club’s supporters travelled to London to watch him in England’s 3-0 win over Scotland in World Cup qualifying last Friday.
The victory over Scotland preserved England’s two-point lead at the top of UEFA qualifying Group F and is thought to have landed Southgate the job on a permanent basis.
Southgate stepped in after Sam Allardyce was brought down in a newspaper sting and will complete his initial four-game remit in Tuesday’s game against Spain.
– ‘Element of risk’ –
The match against Scotland highlighted Southgate’s wish for his defenders to play the ball out from the back.
The tactic caused some hairy moments in both that game and the 0-0 draw away to Slovenia that preceded it, with misplaced passes obliging Hart to make two last-ditch saves in Ljubljana.
But despite the element of risk, Hart is happy for his defensive colleagues to invite pressure at the back, even if it might mean extra work for him.
“The way we play and the way we build up does carry an element of risk, but there’s a lot of benefits to it,” he said.
“And even when we did lose the ball in certain situations on Friday, the power and athleticism and desire to get back…
“If we didn’t have that, then maybe I’d be thinking: ‘We need to be careful here.’ But I know people are going to commit.”
Hart was phlegmatic when asked whether he still had a future at City under Pep Guardiola, the manager who froze him out.
“I’m just enjoying my time in Torino. I’m a Torino player for this season,” he said.
“I’ve got two years on my (City) contract after this season. It’s difficult to look too far ahead of that and without passing the buck, it’s not really my responsibility to think about.
“The City fans have always been fantastic to me and showed me a lot of support and it’s a club I will always hold dear to my heart.”
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