Joe Hart Sunday Mirror Article

Joe Hart’s Birmingham will be looking to win bragging rights in England’s second city when they take on bitter rivals Aston Villa this afternoon.   But not too long ago the England hopeful was eyeing a very different challenge.

Before opting for a career in football, hart spent two years at Worcestershire’s cricket academy under the guidance of Damian D’Oliveira - and could have made it as a professional cricketer.

D’Oliveira told Sunday Mirror Sport: ” Joe’s very well known in cricketing circles and still tries to play a bit whenever he can.”

His former club Shrewsbury reached the semi-finals of the ECB National Club Championship last season and Joe picked up the hotel bill for them and spent the night with them on their away trips. 

“At the age of 16, he was a very talented left-arm seamer.   He had all the attributes - he was tall at 6’2”, could swing the ball back into the right hander and could bowl around 85mph.   He was one of the most highly rated players in the country and at the Bunbury Festival, where the national under-15 team is selected, he did fantastically well.   His batting was nothing to write home about - he hit the ball hard, but there wouldn’t have been too many players coming in after him, but he did have huge potential as a bowler.”

However, with the riches on offer in the modern world of football, Worcestershire’s academy chief doesn’t blame Hart for taking a career route that could lead directly to this summer’s World Cup in South Africa.

Doliveira added: ” We always knew we were fighting a battle against football and that we were never going to be able to compete if Joe got a decent offer.   It’s nigh-on impossible for cricket to compete with football now.   If you put a football contract and a cricket one in front of a young player, there’s no comparison.   I was speaking to one of our young lads in the nets and he said that it must have been a big decision as a young player to decide if you want to earn £12,000 a year or £12,000 a week!”

As a Manchester City fan, D’Oliveira has mixed feelings about Hart’s success with Birmingham so far this season.   Hart is due back at his home club this summer, but his progress has made him a target for several leading clubs, including Arsenal.   But whether he returns to Eastlands or not, Hart’s former coach has no doubt that the young goalkeeper will be a massive success for club and country.

D’Oliveira said: He was quiet and unassuming and was a model professional to work with.   He was always someone that worked really hard and listened and took advice.   He has a good head on his shoulders, is not someone who ever panics and he’ll take whatever’s thrown at him.”

With Fabio Capello looking for cool heads this summer, its an attitude that could bowl an Italian over.

 Sunday 25th April 2010