City goalkeeper the Hart of England - International - Football - The Independent

City goalkeeper the Hart of England

He is unfazed by the chaos surrounding the national team and looks nailed on as a future captain

Joe Hart turned out to be the best signing of Stuart Pearce's relatively brief career in club management, joining Manchester City from Shrewsbury Town in 2006. He was in Pearce's first Under-21s squad the following year despite the fact he was a relative unknown on loan at Tranmere Rovers and now, when Pearce takes charge of the England senior team tonight at Wembley, it is Hart who is one of the few certainties to be on the team-sheet.

It is unlikely, although not impossible, that England's caretaker manager could announce this morning that Hart is also his captain for tonight's game against the Netherlands, and if it is not today then surely at some point in Hart's career he will get the job.

In fact, for a player who has won just 16 caps – and never been on the losing side for England – Hart's ascent to a position of seniority in the squad since the World Cup finals two years ago has been remarkable. There is no player of his age, 24, and currently fit, who is so crucial to the immediate future of the team, and none who can be more certain of a key role at Euro 2012 this summer.

Consider the contenders. Rio Ferdinand has not played since June last year and Steven Gerrard not since November 2010. John Terry's long-term international future must be in doubt given the decision to take the captaincy away from him. Wayne Rooney is suspended for the first two games of the European Championships and is currently out with a throat problem. Jack Wilshere is among the long-term injured.

It leaves Hart as the one man whose immediate future does not have some kind of question mark hanging over it. He has been in every squad since the last World Cup finals and started every game apart from the November 2010 friendly against France. His dominance of the position has already forced Ben Foster into an open-ended sabbatical and Robert Green required some persuading that coming back into the fold was worth the hassle.

Even Sir Alex Ferguson says that Hart is the best goalkeeper England have produced in 20 years and regrets allowing Pearce to beat United to the punch in signing him from Shrewsbury. Ferguson claimed that he could have got the player for £100,000. Pearce said yesterday that Hart's fee of £600,000, rising to £1.5m was "right on the limit" of City's budget for a teenage goalkeeper back in 2006. "We didn't have much money at Manchester City then," he said, "so he fitted the bill just nicely."

It is one of those unusual features of international football that, because of the few games played relative to club football, circumstances can alter dramatically from one match to the next. In another period of frenzied change for the national team, Hart, who won three caps in two years before he was installed as No 1 by Fabio Capello after the South Africa World Cup, has been one of the few constants in the England team.

Hart seemed to think yesterday that the choice of captain for tonight's game was between Gerrard and Scott Parker. It is worth noting that the last time Gerrard appeared for England there was a dispute between Liverpool and Fabio Capello about him being over-played which may result in the midfielder being used sparingly tonight and could have an effect on Pearce's thinking over the captaincy.

As for whether he could do it, Hart had a pretty straightforward answer for those who questioned whether a goalkeeper was suitable to be a captain when he pointed out that the current world champions, Spain, have a goalkeeper as their captain.

Given that Pearce had made an unusual decision yesterday to delay the naming of the captain, it was telling that Hart was sent out as a safe bat to face the press. When it was put to him that England, without a manager, a captain and three months from a major international tournament do not find themselves in an ideal position, he was blunt in his response. "It never is. You just have to get on with it. No, not [a problem] for me. You've got to roll with it. 'It' happens – obviously I can't say the word – but you know what I mean.

"There's always something interesting going on, let's not lie about it. There's always something going on. That's what we are and the quality shows in the players, we just get on with it."

It also takes a certain degree of confidence in one's position in the team to admit – in as many words – that "shit happens" at the FA, although that is demonstrably the case. Hart, an easy-going Salopian, appears to have the kind of attitude that is crucial for a goalkeeper at the elite level. They cannot allow too much to affect them. He has come through his less impressive performances, like the one against Switzerland last June, without damaging his confidence.

He played two tournaments under Pearce with the Under-21s and was suspended for the final of the European Championships in 2009 after being booked for sledging the Sweden players during the penalty shoot-out that England won. He remains unrepentant in that respect. "I think I was pointlessly booked, I didn't break any rules," he said. "If I had I would have been the hardest person on myself. I think I'm pretty honest and pretty fair. It was so petty the decision. But that is gone."

In the end it fell to Hart to defend his manager Pearce who, despite his willingness to step in tonight, and his eagerness to plan for the summer's championship, has few major allies when it comes to getting the job on a permanent basis. Being so young when he joined City, Hart had little contact with Pearce, the manager at the club, but clearly has developed a connection with him since.

Hart said: "I think he [Pearce] has developed. It's a totally different role from the City role. All three of them were really different. City was a club side, he was a stand-in, did great and became the manager. The Under-21s was all about development and getting people ready and I have only seen him for a day and a half as the senior manager. So all three have been different. He is a passionate guy. Anything involving England is just perfect for him, for who he is and what he is about. Hopefully he can inspire us."

Hart will play behind another new England back four tonight, whoever Pearce picks. There is no Terry, no Ferdinand, and Joleon Lescott was only called up yesterday. "Yeah, it's an extra challenge for me and an extra challenge for them," he said, "but I think potentially it could be the back four for years and could be the best ones potentially in the world so it could be great."

Pearce described his goalkeeper as a "big influence" around the squad who will be around for some time. Hart turns 25 in April, by which time he will have 17 England caps. On his 25th birthday, Peter Shilton had just three more than that and he, of course, ended up with 125. It certainly makes you wonder how far Hart could go.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week