Although the Three Lions number one was always on the radar of his local professional club, enjoying the game – both in goal and out of goal – and playing with his friends were his only concerns as a youngster.
Born: Shrewsbury, 19 April 1987
Clubs: Shrewsbury Town, Manchester City, Tranmere Rovers (loan), Blackpool (loan), Birmingham City (loan)
England debut: v Trinidad & Tobago Trinidad and Tobago, 01/06/08
“I didn’t really grasp the importance of what I was doing [as a teenager], so I was still going for a kick-around and playing for the love of it. If I wasn’t playing for Shrewsbury I was playing for the school or playing with my friends,” he explained.
“That was the lucky thing about playing for Shrewsbury Town. I know a lot of academies don’t let their players play Sunday league or anything like that – but I was lucky that I was free to play for other teams,” added Hart, who was speaking ahead of this weekend’s FA National Coaching Conference, England DNA: connecting the game, which explores the varied pathways players take in the game.
The freedom to represent a variety of teams at different levels as well as enjoying other sports fitted the Manchester City stopper’s relaxed attitude as a teenager.
“I never felt restricted with anything I did. I felt like I could play a game every night for different teams if I wanted to and it suited me,” explained Hart.
However, for someone with his obvious talent, cycling round the corner to play grassroots football with his friends could only last so long. The arrangement with the Shrews soon became permanent and his career accelerated.
“Playing for the county team gradually pushed me towards Shrewsbury Town, who left me with an open invitation really. When I was 14/15 I joined and it went on from there,” he said.
“My time at Shrewsbury was majorly important – it got me in the shop window to go to a club like Manchester City.
Watch Joe Hart training with England's goalkeepers
“I’ve always said that at 15 years old I was on the bench and at 16/17 years old I was playing. It was just an amazing opportunity. It was my peak of my aims and my goals at the time, I never thought anything else would come of it.”
A tally of 57 England caps and the honour of captaining his country against Spain earlier in the month, as well as Premier League and FA Cup success are just a few of the achievements the 28 year-old stopper has enjoyed since.
Hart is quick to cite his positive introduction to football and the role the volunteer coaches played at his first grassroots club.
“I played for a couple of grassroots teams – I played for Saha Colts. It was about a mile from my house so I could cycle there and all my friends played for them.
“We had a good thing – we had some really dedicated coaches. I didn’t realise at the time but they spent a lot of money and put a lot of effort in to help us enjoy football.
“All the little things that made it exciting, like having nets, just made it that bit more special and helped us enjoy football,” added Hart.
Joe Hart’s player development journey features at The FA National Coaching conference England DNA: Connecting the game held on 4-7 December at St. George’s Park.
The four-day conference will explore how to connect each stage of a player’s development journey in order to provide a positive experience of the game.
Follow @StGeorgesPark for highlights from the conference