Bullish Hart refuses to settle for a place on Man City bench

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England goalkeeper Joe Hart has warned his Manchester City employers that he is not willing to spend the coming season on the bench.

Hart, 23, was named in the PFA Team of the Year following an excellent last season on loan with Birmingham, but his first-team opportunities at Eastlands could be limited.

Although manager Roberto Mancini insists that he has yet to decide on his number one, Irishman Shay Given appears to be the first-choice goalkeeper.

City are 6/1 to win the title this season, and despite the possibility of silverware at the City of Manchester Stadium, Hart may go elsewhere in his search for first-team football.

“All I want to do is play in the first team,” Hart said. “Whether I am involved with England or not, all I want to do is play.”

After Rob Green’s World Cup howler against the USA, and David James’s decision to join Championship club Bristol City, Hart may be first choice for England’s friendly against Hungary on August 11th.

Patrick Vieira, meanwhile, should be available for City’s first Premier League match of the season, away at Tottenham on August 14th, which Mancini’s men are 15/8 to win.

The French midfielder was sent off during City’s 3-0 friendly defeat to Inter Milan when he was adjudged to have elbowed Marco Materazzi.

The FA, however, have confirmed that the dismissal will not affect Vieira’s Premier League hopes: “If a player gets a red card in a friendly he gets a ban for his next friendly, not for competitive matches.”

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Robbie Morris

Robbie studied sports journalism at the University of Gloucestershire, an establishment chosen for its proximity to Cheltenham racecourse, where he was a season ticket holder. Upon graduation, Robbie was a contributor to GolfPunk, a national magazine aimed at ridding golf of its traditionalist image, before joining the news.ladbrokes team.