McLeish tells Capello to play Hart

Derby County 1 Birmingham City 2

Alex McLeish has urged England manager Fabio Capello to pick Joe Hart for the friendly against Egypt next month if he is thinking of taking him to the World Cup finals this summer.

Hart's form with Birmingham during his season-long loan from Manchester City has made him a strong candidate to go to South Africa and Capello told McLeish how impressed he has been with the young goalkeeper's progress when they met at a dinner in London last week.

The 22-year-old produced a stunning last-minute save on Saturday to confirm Birmingham's place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. It was an impressive response following an embarrassing slip-up earlier and confirmed to the Birmingham manager that Hart has the mental strength to perform under pressure.

But McLeish is worried that his career might suffer were he to find himself thrust into the global spotlight without a staged introduction to the international arena. It is more than 18 months since Hart earned his one senior cap – a 45-minute appearance in a friendly against Trinidad & Tobago.

"He is made of tough stuff and I think he could handle playing at that level," McLeish said. "But it would be better to be fed into the system before you embark on a World Cup finals because one error in a World Cup finals is there for the whole world to see.

"It is scrutinised and the press are relentless in their persecution of people who make a mistake. At that level there is no hiding place and people are judged on that ultimately."

McLeish was reminded of the misfortune suffered by another rookie, Scott Carson, who was the same age as Hart is now when his mistakes in the Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia in November 2007, cost England their place in the finals. "Scott Carson is a good keeper but it might have affected him," he said.

"I think Joe has earned the right to go to South Africa. I'm sure Capello will try to include him between now and the summer."

England face Egypt at Wembley on 3 March and are likely to have two or three warm-up fixtures before departing for South Africa.

Hart's heroic leap to turn a superb stoppage time strike from Robbie Savage over the bar denied Derby a replay. Moments earlier, Liam Ridgewell had forced the ball over the line to cap a Birmingham comeback in which Scotland international Barry Ferguson was flawless in midfield.

That followed a header from Scott Dann after 73 minutes, cancelling out a goal from Jay McEveley that left Hart slightly red-faced. He let the ball loop over him after McEveley's shot had taken an awkward bounce.

"I'm not sure it was a mistake because it got a horrendous bobble," McLeish said. "I don't think he will beat himself up too much but he is a conscientious lad and will want to watch it again a few times to see what happened."

Derby County (4-4-2): Bywater; Hunt, Barker, Buxton, McEveley; Tonge, Savage, Green, Pearson; Hulse, Commons. Substitutes not used: Deeney (gk), Porter, Pringle, Moxey, Anderson, Vidal, Connelly.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Hart; Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson (Fahey, 64), Ferguson, Bowyer, McFadden (Gardner, 82); Benitez (Phillips, 65), Jerome. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Madera, Parnaby, Vignal.

Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).

Booked: Derby Savage; Birmingham City Gardner.

Man of the match: Ferguson.

Attendance: 21,043.

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