Manchester City and England's No.1 chats the title race, penalties and James Milner's goalkeeping with FourFourTwo's Ben Welch...
So, City have played some incredible football this year, do you ever wish you were out there joining in?
No, I’m happy for them to do their thing and wait for my turn! There are some fantastic players out there that I really enjoy working with. I obviously love it when we play well, so I’ve just got to sit back sometimes and enjoy it.
No when we’re winning by five or six, it’s the time when I have to step up, because as much as you don’t want to switch off, the lads can’t help it. The game is pretty much won and they’ve got two or three goals each, but I still want a clean sheet - so, as a goalkeeper, you’ve got the be even more professional when the game is like that.
Do you ever wish you could go up for more corners and have a chance of grabbing one yourself?
If it didn’t mean we were losing, I would want to be up there all the time. Unfortunately, if I’m required up that end, then it can't be a good time for us. The keepers do sometimes to make up the numbers in training - getting involved in the boxes and stuff like that. But I get too excited when I run around too quickly and my heart can’t deal with it...
When you’re out on the pitch what position do you play? Do you go straight up front and try and score goals?
Yeah, a million per cent. For the first minute I’d rate my shooting at six out of 10, but by five minutes in I'd be a two, I can’t move!
Would you rather win the title on the last day by scoring a last-minute winner like Sergio Aguero did in 2012, or by a few points with a couple of games to spare?
Either way, I’d take either. Winning the Premier League is a great achievement and something that we’re really fighting for this year.
If you did score the winner, what sort of celebration could we expect?
I think Sergio proved it’s hard to celebrate, he got his top off and then next minute he was taken out by about eight people so you’d do pretty well to get any sort of celebration in without getting mobbed.
Do any of your team-mates ever ask you if they can put the gloves on and have a go in goal?
James Milner always wants to have a little go in goal, but he just wants to cover every position on the pitch. We joke about it; he does end up playing a lot of positions, and goalkeeper is the last one he needs to cover. He’s not bad at it - he’s as you’d expect James Milner to be.
Wayne Rooney likes going in goal in England training doesn’t he?
Yeah he does, he likes spraying the balls and catching balls but when it actually comes to whacking a ball at him, he’s a wimp.
This season has been one of the closest title races ever, of your rivals who has impressed you the most?
You can’t help but be impressed with all the sides, what they’re displaying at the moment, top and bottom. Obviously Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea are all fantastic teams who are playing really well, but I think you’ve got to give great props to clubs like Southampton, who haven’t been at the top for a number of years. They’ve been down in League One and now they’re playing a great style of football with some great English players. Everton have been fantastic too, Gareth Barry is doing really well there.
The title race is really tight this year - of course we’d love to just be winning it easily, but that’s just idealistic and not something that is ever going to happen in such a competitive Premier League. It’s so exciting to be involved in this kind of title race, but there’s a lot of pressure.
Vincent Kompany said after the first leg against Barcelona that they weren’t the best team you’ve faced this season; who’s been better?
It’s just opinions, it was an emotional night. We’ve played against some fantastic sides both in the Premier League and in Europe so it would be hard to pick one in particular.
Barcelona have got some fantastic players. It’s mentally hard as a goalkeeper to play against them, because you know they’re so aware of everything around them, so many passes and so many other options that they’ve all got in their range of passing and range of shooting. You could be preparing for a through ball and then someone could be chipping you and at the same time someone could be making a blind-sided run.
How have you developed and matured as a goalkeeper this season?
I think I’m developing and maturing with every game I play. You realise exactly what’s required of you as a team rather than trying to play a specific role as a goalkeeper you need to play a role in the team and be involved when you need to and what I’ve learnt over the years is to not be involved is better than being involved sometimes.
Do you feel the ups and downs you’ve been through recently have helped you develop as a goalkeeper? Do you feel you have taken positives from those situations?
I think you’ve got to take the positives from all situations, good and bad. You’ve got to be able to assess when things are going well and when things aren’t, and I think you’ve got to be able to learn and move on from them, that’s what I’m trying to do.
You seem that have a real intensity on the pitch but are obviously up for having a laugh off it too, are there any of your team-mates you like to wind up? Who bites?
We’ve got a good group, you like to wind everyone up and there are certain people that don’t bite, so you kind of work harder and harder - a bite off those kind of people means the world.
Vincent Kompany strikes FFT as the kind of person you'd want to get a bite from...
Yeah of course, you’ve just got to be fully aware that if you do get him too wound up then you’re in for a good fight.
Are there any players that are as intense off the pitch as they are on it?
You find ways, the more time you spend with people you realise everyone sits back every now and again. It’s relationships and you find ways to get the best from them, you’ve got to respect sometimes that people want to be serious and want to work hard and you’ve got to respect that the same way I want to be respected when I do that. But you know at the right moment you’ve got to have fun, that’s life.
We asked Sergio Aguero who was the worst dressed player at the club and he said Costel Pantilimon, would you go along with that?
[Thinks long and hard] Nah I’ve got to stick by Panti, it’s hard to get stuff in his size... you know what I mean, he’s massive.
Is it true that he pretty much wears pyjamas?
His tracksuits do look a little bit like pyjamas sometimes, but like I said, I think that’s just because he’s so big.
Who are the jokers at City?
There are a few. Sergio [Aguero] in his own colourful ways is quite funny to watch. All the boys are really funny, Kolarov kills everyone though. I think he’s got to take top man - he's just an unbelievable character, unbelievable personality, something I’ll never see repeated.
You’ve got a lot of bright young players in the squad at the moment, yet expectations are lower than they’ve ever been. Do you feel this has created a perfect situation for the squad to excel?
I think there is a perfect situation in the fact that we all believe in each other and we trust each other. What people expect of us is irrelevant really, we’ve got a good situation where we’ve got a manager we’ve worked with, we know what he wants and he knows what we want and that’s the best situation for us.
We learnt from Euro 2012, including the feeling of going out, when it’s all over. You work so hard and are so intensely involved in something and with one result it’s taken away from you, it’s something you want to put off for as long as possible. But we've got plenty of hunger, desire, and a team full of players coming from backgrounds of winning. We’re going in trying to win every game, so if we stay focussed on our goal then there is no limit.
If it comes down to penalties again, do you fancy yourself banging one in? What would Joe Hart’s technique be? Placement or power?
I'd take one - a million per cent. I can’t tell you what my technique will be - I’m definitely going to be in there, so I can’t give it away.
Have you faced a better penalty taker than Mario Balotelli?
Well, I thought he was unsaveable, I honestly did and he’s missed two this year so... We’ve got some pretty good takers, Negredo can bang a penalty. Yaya can do it in a game but he’s horrendous in training. There are some high-level takers - you can't look past Rickie Lambert's record.
Is Balotelli so good because he’s so relaxed that he becomes almost impossible to read?
He’s just a master of his art and one of his arts is penalties; reading goalkeepers, seeing a chink in your armour, then just banging it in.
What does Roy Hodgson bring to the job that’s different to his predecessors?
I’ve only ever worked under Mr Capello previously, who obviously had his ways of doing things, his regime. Roy brings a more English feel obviously, language is key and he has more of a relationship with the players. We know exactly what he wants and I really enjoy playing for him.
Joe Hart wears the new white, black and silver Umbro Speciali 4 Pro boots and Neo Pro gloves, available from ProDirectSoccer.com