Joe Hart looked like he’d never been away as he rekindled his love for European football on a memorable Burnley debut.
Hart chalked up 63 European appearances – including a Champions League semi-final in 2016 – during more than a decade of outstanding service at Manchester City.
And after joining the Clarets earlier this week following two seasons out on loan, the England goalkeeper kept a clean sheet as Sean Dyche’s men drew 0-0 at Istanbul Basaksehir in the first leg of their Europa League third qualifying round tie.
“I loved it,” said Hart. “I wasn’t too sure what the script was going to be with me tonight.
“I’ve only been with the squad a couple of days, but Anders suffered a little injury last night which paved the way and I really, really enjoyed it.
“I thought the lads were absolutely fantastic and showed good European nous.
“An away result was so important, and I think we realised that with 10 or 12 minutes to go and we shut the door.
“I absolutely love playing in Europe. The Premier League is fantastic, but once you get a taste for it, it’s the place to be.
“I think maybe the coaching staff might have had a few worries that I had only played two 45 minutes.
“But I assured them I felt ready and I felt good to play and I feel like I did okay.
“The way the lads defended they made it really hard for them to get any shots off and when they did it was my job to be there.”
Hart’s last outing had come in a pre-season friendly for City against Liverpool in New York last month.
The contrast could hardly have been greater as the 31-year-old made his Burnley bow by playing his first ever game in Turkey.
It was also a first competitive fixture in the country for the Clarets as they looked to keep their European run going.
And Sean Dyche’s men have given themselves every chance of reaching the play-off round after keeping Basaksehir at bay in front of around 500 travelling fans to know that any win at Turf Moor next Thursday night will take Burnley through.
“They were absolutely fantastic,” Hart told Clarets Player HD. “I knew that it can’t just be the lads playing well to get in this position. It’s impossible.
“You need to be at one with your supporters. I really felt that tonight so hopefully we can give them something else to cheer about next week.
“They are a decent side and it’s going to be tough but I feel like we’ll be more ready.
“The guys are getting experience and fitness, as well, which is key. It wasn’t easy to come out here and hopefully Turf Moor will be the place to be.”