Four years ago, Joe Hart was adding another Premier League medal to his sizeable haul of silverware and was being hailed as one of the finest shot-stoppers in Europe. Now, the 30-year-old finds himself out of favour at West Ham, the very club who were supposed to offer him a reprieve from his Etihad exile, and linked with a switch to fellow strugglers Newcastle United.

In many ways, the demise of the England goalkeeper’s career echoes that of the Magpies – once flying high amongst the higher echelons of the division but now doing all they can to keep themselves afloat.

Hart has always had his follies, namely when it comes to distribution – which in the end spelled his immediate downfall at the club where he made close to 350 appearances – but for a long time, his catlike reflexes were almost second to none.

Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen him toil at Euro 2016, struggle in Serie A with Torino, and he’s now forced to deal with the ignominy of bench-warming duty at David Moyes’ West Ham.

It’s obvious that Rafa Benitez has been on the lookout for a goalkeeper for some time – his reluctance to trust either Rob Elliot or Karl Darlow with the gloves on a permanent basis does not bode well for either. But in the throes of a relegation battle, it would make little sense for the Spaniard to turn to a goalkeeper whose confidence lays in tatters.

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