With just over 15 weeks left until the 19th World Cup begins in South Africa and one player is making a real case to force his way in to the starting line up. Joe Hart could have been put out by Manchester City signing Shay Given last January, a smack in the face for his aspirations to make himself City’s number one. Thankfully for Hart, Alex McLeish rode to the rescue in the summer taking the young stopper to Birmingham City on a season long loan and what an inspired piece of business it has turned out to be.
Of course, at the beginning of the season, Hart seemed a little unsure of his surroundings and his place at St. Andrews but over the last few months, he has been head and shoulders above every other English goalkeeper in the Premiership. Week by week, Hart’s performances have left his club manager purring and now Fabio Capello has re-affirmed the praise for the shot stopper by announcing he’ll start the friendly match against Egypt next week.
Capello’s reign has been pointed in the fact that he has been careful not to build his players up too much, but saw fit to break from that tradition last week. FAbio stated that “Hart has been fantastic this season and before he made mistakes but he makes fewer now because he plays regularly and has more confidence”. That is a ringing endorsement of the likable Shropshire lad and he now has a chance to make the Number One jersey his own.
With David James embroiled in the daily hell that is Portsmouth’s season, Ben Foster unable to make it on Manchester United’s bench most weeks, though he started tonight’s match against West Ham United and Paul Robinson still seemingly out of favour, Hart has a real chance of taking his place in the starting line up. Of his other rivals for the shirt, Robert Green still shows massive inconsistency on a regular basis, Chris Kirkland’s injury problems still linger in the background and Scott Carson is still making errors in the Championship.
Since he forced his way in to Shrewsbury’s first team back in 2005, ending the season as the Second Division Goalkeeper of the year, Hart has long been expected to eventually force his way in to being an England regular. A consistent performer for England Under 21’s, who showed the strength of his nerves by saving and then scoring a penalty against Sweden in last summers Under-21 European Championships, Hart has now brought that consistency to his league form.
The majority of England’s first team picks itself, but it’s in defence where Capello will beginning to have real concerns about the strength, confidence and fitness. Ashley Cole faces a race to be fit and his wife has left him today, Glen Johnson has also suffered from injury this season, Ferdinand still seems to be struggling with his back and the less said about John Terry the better. Would it be too much to expect Joe Hart to be able to cope with such a fragile looking backline in front of him.
Of course, 15 weeks is a long time in football and all the concerns that currently hang over the English defence may have evaporated by then and Joe Hart will be walking out with the England team for the match against the U.S.A. on June 12th in Rustenberg. I for one would have no fear for the young lad representing us at the World Cup as our starting goalkeeper and I look forward to him starting against Egypt next Wednesday night.