MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Former Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart can expect a warm welcome when he returns to the Etihad Stadium with his new club Burnley on Saturday, according to City boss Pep Guardiola.
Hart was loaned out by Guardiola shortly after the Spaniard took over at the club, moving to Torino and West Ham United in the past two seasons before joining Burnley in August.
Hart, 31, made 348 appearances for City during 11 years at the club and won two Premier League titles as well as making 75 appearances for England.
Saturday’s Premier League match will mark the first time Hart has returned to face City.
“There’s no doubt how important Joe Hart was and is. Tomorrow, we will see the people appreciate what he has done for this club,” Guardiola told a news conference.
Hart underwent pre-season training with City before his move to Burnley and City defender Aymeric Laporte said he was impressed by his professionalism and agreed with Guardiola that he will be well received by City fans.
“He’s a very good goalkeeper and a very good person, too. He was well liked by all the players and I think the supporters of Manchester City love him because of his achievements over the years,” said the Frenchman.
“He trained really well and was very professional during the summer, so it will be nice to see him again and I am sure he will get a fantastic reception when he walks out on Saturday.”
After struggling for form at West Ham last season and losing his England place, Hart has enjoyed a revival in form at Turf Moor and his manager Sean Dyche says he will have nothing to prove to Guardiola.
“I think to be fair, if you take away the noise I don’t think there’s ever been any real problem with him, the manager or the club,” said Dyche.
“Everyone knows what a good servant he’s been there. He’s been a big part of their recent history.
“I didn’t bring him to prove a point to anyone. In my opinion he’s another top class goalkeeper that we’ve got here. Another one.
“I don’t want to speak for him but I don’t see why he’s got any point to prove — other than to himself. To continue to show what a top class keeper he is.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Martyn Herman)