Hart hoping for happy Shrewsbury homecoming in FA Cup
West Ham United’s Emirates FA Cup third round draw away to Shrewsbury Town brought a broad smile to the face of Joe Hart.
The Hammers goalkeeper was born and raised in Shrewsbury and grew up dreaming of pulling on the shirt of his local club.
After excelling for the Shropshire county representative team, Hart was snapped up by the Shrews at the age of 14. A year later, he was named on the substitutes’ bench in League Two, before former West Ham striker Jimmy Quinn handed him a senior debut in April 2004, one day past his 17th birthday.
The 2005/06 season saw Hart, still just 18, establish himself as Shrewsbury’s No1 and win League Two Team of the Year honours, England U19 international recognition and earn a big-money move to Premier League Manchester City.
The rest is well-documented history, but Hart will never forget the town he called home for more than half of his life, nor the club which gave him the springboard to become a footballing superstar.
It’s the first time I’ll have gone back to Shrewsbury for a competitive game, so I’m really looking forward to it
“It’s the first time I’ll have gone back to Shrewsbury for a competitive game, so I’m really looking forward to it,” the 30-year-old confirmed.
“It’s a beautiful town and a nice place to live. We are kind of on the edge of everything in our own little world, but it’s a great place, full of proud people, and I have nothing but good things to say about Shrewsbury. It’s my home.
“It was nice to be involved in the first team from such a young age. They put me in the team when we were in non-league and we were just above the drop zone, when I was only 17 or 18, and we managed to stay up, which was good. They always had a lot of faith in me, which I really appreciated.”
Hart was in the crowd last time Shrewsbury welcomed Premier League opposition back in January 2003. That afternoon, David Moyes’ Everton were the visitors to Gay Meadow, where they were surprisingly beaten 2-1 by the fourth-tier Shrews.
Fifteen years on, Hart and Moyes will be back, albeit at Shrewsbury’s New Meadow stadium, which opened in 2007.
While the England goalkeeper and Scottish manager were on opposite sides last time out, they will both be out to avoid another third-round shock.
“Shrewsbury are doing pretty well this year, so I’m sure it’ll be a tough game for us,” Hart confirmed. “They moved into a new stadium and it took a while for them to get used to it, so they’ve had some ups and downs, but they’re flying high at the top of League One this season, so it’s looking good.
“The FA Cup is always a test, particularly away from home, whoever you are playing. Even if you go to a non-league club, it’ll be a big game and a hard one to win.
“I went to the game the last time they beat Premier League opposition in the FA Cup, which was Everton back in 2003. I was there, but obviously I hope the result is different this time around!”