England will let officials deal with racism says Joe Hart

 

Goalkeeper Joe Hart today said England's response would be led by the match referee and UEFA if any players suffer racial abuse during their Euro 2012 campaign.

Players were warned this week they will be booked if they walk off the pitch after experiencing racism during the tournament.

UEFA president Michel Platini confirmed the rule preventing players from leaving the field without the referee's permission would stand - even if they are the victims of abuse from the stands in Poland and Ukraine.

Italy striker Mario Balotelli, a team-mate of Hart's at Manchester City, last week threatened to walk off if he suffered racist abuse during Italy's games.

Hart said: "Our advice is to get on with it and see how the referee and UEFA deal with it.

"It's not for us to do.

"Hopefully the referee and UEFA will take it into their own hands if that problem does occur.

"Fingers crossed we won't have to deal with anything like that. It's down to the referee.

"We can't take rules into our own hands. If the referee feels it's right for us to walk off then we'll follow him."

Hart, who starts the tournament as England's established first-choice goalkeeper, was quick to play down suggestions that expectations of the team should be low.

A rash of injuries to key men including Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and Gary Cahill have hampered the build-up for manager Roy Hodgson, who only came into the job last month, following Fabio Capello's departure in February.

While hopes at home may be as low as they have been for many years, certainly within the England camp that is not the case, with a team containing several high achievers at club level determined to produce a strong campaign.

England start against France in Donetsk on Monday, then have further group games against Sweden and Ukraine.

Hart said at England's press conference: "We're all hungry guys.

"We're all successful at football, and that's what we want, we want success.

"We don't want to go there thinking people won't mind if we lose, we can go home, we can go on holiday and no-one will care.

"We have high expectations otherwise there's no point us being here.

"We've come to win, we've come to do well, we've come to represent our country, and we want to make people proud."

Hart has no concerns over England's strength in central defence, even with Rio Ferdinand left at home.

Ferdinand's exclusion has caused controversy but Hart's focus is on the squad England have taken, with his City colleague Joleon Lescott set to slot in alongside John Terry in the heart of the back four.

Hart predicted Lescott would "fit in nicely" and said of the defenders available to Hodgson: "Whoever's picked to play for England seems to do a great job.

"I've been really happy thus far in training and in the game against Belgium. So I couldn't be happier."

Asked about the mood within the ranks, Hart said: "It feels good. We've got a good atmosphere with the lads.

"There's a few new faces but it doesn't feel that way. They don't feel alienated.

"We're all proud Englishmen looking to do well in this tournament."

Hodgson has been "very calm" and open to players approaching him with their thoughts, Hart said.

"We respect that Roy Hodgson's manager but he's been quite open in saying he'd like feedback from us. It's not feedback in that we're going to dictate what he does. It's nice to know he likes to listen to what the boys are feeling and where they want to go with things," Hart said.

"We can only suggest but he's the manager and what he says goes."

England striker Jermain Defoe has returned home following the death of his father.

The Football Association confirmed the news this morning, adding that the player is expected to return at some point and no replacement is being called up.

Hart said: "We'll be ready for him when he wants to return."

PA

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