MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Former Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart can expect a warm welcome when he returns to the Etihad Stadium with his new club Burnley on Saturday, according to City boss Pep Guardiola.
Hart was loaned out by Guardiola shortly after the Spaniard took over at the club, moving to Torino and West Ham United in the past two seasons before joining Burnley in August.
Hart, 31, made 348 appearances for City during 11 years at the club and won two Premier League titles as well as making 75 appearances for England.
Saturday’s Premier League match will mark the first time Hart has returned to face City.
“There’s no doubt how important Joe Hart was and is. Tomorrow, we will see the people appreciate what he has done for this club,” Guardiola told a news conference.
On Friday, City announced they had named a training pitch inside their academy after Hart with a mosaic showing him celebrating the 2012 title triumph.
“Having the goalkeeping pitch at the City Football Academy dedicated to me is a huge honour. Manchester City has been a huge part of my life and my career, and I’m immensely proud of what I and my team mates achieved in that period,” Hart told the club’s website.
“There have been some incredible goalkeeping legends throughout Manchester City’s history, and I feel privileged that the club has chosen to recognise me amongst that number.”
Hart did his pre-season training with City before moving to Burnley and defender Aymeric Laporte said he was impressed by his professionalism and agreed with Guardiola that he will be well received by City fans.
“He’s a very good goalkeeper and a very good person, too. He was well liked by all the players and I think the supporters of Manchester City love him because of his achievements over the years,” said the Frenchman.
“He trained really well and was very professional during the summer, so it will be nice to see him again and I am sure he will get a fantastic reception when he walks out on Saturday.”
After struggling for form at West Ham United last season and losing his England place, Hart has enjoyed a revival in form at Turf Moor and his Burnley manager Sean Dyche said he will have nothing to prove to Guardiola.
“I think to be fair, if you take away the noise I don’t think there’s ever been any real problem with him, the manager or the club,” said Dyche.
“Everyone knows what a good servant he’s been there. He’s been a big part of their recent history.
“I didn’t bring him (to Burnley) to prove a point to anyone. In my opinion he’s another top class goalkeeper that we’ve got here. Another one.
“I don’t want to speak for him but I don’t see why he’s got any point to prove — other than to himself. To continue to show what a top class keeper he is.”
Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Martyn Herman and Ken Ferris