Joe Hart has issued a statement rejecting claims he spent £100,000 gambling with Union J member Josh Cuthbert after Manchester City’s 3-2 derby defeat to Manchester United in Dec. 2012.
Cuthbert—who rose to fame as one quarter of the English boyband on last year’s X Factor—recently spoke of a bizarre night in which he entered a casino with Hart and Gareth Barry after the show’s finale, per Hannah Hope of the Mirror.
But Hart has moved quickly to deny the story, issuing a statement through his lawyers, reported by Sam Wallace of The Independent.
The statement said that Hart denied withdrawing the sum of money or a sum that even "remotely approached" £100,000. His legal advisors said: "The main thrust of the story is misconceived and untrue." They added that Hart was "an infrequent visitor to casinos."
Cuthbert had earlier claimed, per Hope's report:
I told Joe what a big fan I was and he said 'I love Union J.' I was just in awe thinking, 'This is England’s number one goalkeeper.' We’ve had a bond since.
Joe gave me some money to gamble with. I went to get my debit card to take out £50 and he withdrew like £100,000 and gave me some of his chips – they were worth £2,500.
I came back to the hotel at about nine in the morning drunk out of my face with £12,000 winnings in my hand.
The alleged incident brings further attention to a player who has a permanent residency in the headlines right now.
City boss Manuel Pellegrini recently dropped the stopper after a poor start to the season. Hart’s individual mistakes have cost the Etihad side valuable points this campaign—highlighted by his decision to rush off his line in the 2-1 loss to Chelsea—forcing the Chilean boss to replace him with Costel Pantilimon.
England boss Roy Hodgson recently confirmed Hart would remain in goal for at least one of the country’s upcoming friendly matches against Chile and Germany, as tweeted by Dan Roan of BBC News:
Hodgson: "Hart will start one of the 2 games...he's our number 1 goalkeeper..."— Dan Roan (@danroan) November 7, 2013
Should the confident individual fail to regain his City place, his unchallenged stint as England No. 1 could finally see the 26-year-old dropped in favour of Fraser Forster or John Ruddy, a particularly painful realisation for Hart in the build up to next summer’s World Cup.
Hodgson was unfazed by the gambling story when asked by British press, per Wallace’s report, suggesting he believes the player wouldn’t repeat such behaviour if it proves to be true:
"I'm pleased to hear it was a year ago," said Hodgson. "And I would rather hope it is something Joe himself has corrected. I would have to speak to him about it."
Cuthbert, who supports Chelsea, recently tweeted his happiness with the Blues' ability to beat Arsenal in the Capital One Cup:
So Chelsea field there second starting XI tonight and it is still a joke how good it is......the future is blue ladies and gents.— Josh Cuthbert (@JoshUJWorld) October 29, 2013
Arsenal you can't compete with our squad.....Mourinho is back. And ohhhh I love it.— Josh Cuthbert (@JoshUJWorld) October 29, 2013
Hart's troubled few weeks ensure the player needs to keep quiet and maintain focus on performing well when he is given the opportunity to do so.
Continuous disruption is unhealthy for the goalkeeper who ranks among the best in the world when hitting a rich run of form.
The struggling stopper's next appearance could be during England's Wembley fixture with Chile on Nov. 15. If he remains on the bench until then, Hart must put this latest disruption behind him to rebuild a career that is violently stuttering.