Hart of England is playing for keeps

If there is one shirt in Fabio Capello's England team on which a new name could be inscribed before the World Cup finals next summer, it is the goalkeeper's jersey. Glen Johnson, by returning from Portsmouth to one of the big four clubs, will secure a season of Champions' League experience that should confirm him as right-back, and there are few vacancies elsewhere in the squad – though Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs is compiling a strong case to be understudy to Ashley Cole in the other full-back position.

The unpredictable David James, however, 39 in August, remains the most vulnerable of Capello's first picks, fortunate that not one of the younger generation has yet demonstrated the necessary consistency to displace him. Paul Robinson should have done so long ago, but is only just emerging from a dark tunnel of lost confidence; Robert Green at West Ham United played the last two internationals of the season while James underwent a shoulder operation but hardly managed to touch the ball; Chris Kirkland and Ben Foster are injured as often as fit; which leaves the two most recent products of the England Under-21 team.

Two years ago Scott Carson, signed by Liverpool from Leeds as a teenager, was the high flyer who played in every game at the European Under-21 Championship finals, then went straight into the senior squad. Alas, when his chance suddenly came, on that wet Wembley night against Croatia, he fluffed it and under Capello has subsequently managed one 45-minute appearance as a substitute.

On Friday, Joe Hart of Manchester City sat in a corner of England's windswept beach hotel here expressing the hope that he might be the next beneficiary of fast-tracking between the Under-21s and the senior team. England's remaining matches here – they play Germany tomorrow, already guaranteed a place in Friday's semi-finals – will be his last at this level, and the next step is the big one. Hart has so far taken it only on a temporary basis and, like Carson, was allowed one 45-minute cameo, and he knows there is a specific problem to face now that City's new money has allowed them to install the outstanding Shay Given as the No 1: he needs to be playing regularly, not sitting in a dug-out.

"I imagine that's what they're looking for," he said of the England management team, who had goalkeeping coach Ray Clemence watching him in last week's 2-0 win over Spain. "That's what he [Capello] has been saying, that you need to be playing. That's what everyone wants to do anyway, regardless of whether it gets you in the England team or not. Everyone wants to play for their country and I've got more chance of playing in goal than anywhere else! So that's the role I'm pushing towards. You have to do well at club level, do well when you get opportunities like this tournament and get in the eye of Mr Capello and Stuart Pearce."

Bluntly, he will have to leave City, won't he? "I don't know, I don't know how it's going to work out. I'm not really focusing on it too much at the moment. This tournament is taking a lot of my time and I think everyone respects that back home with regards to moving, and when this is out of the way, hopefully that will be resolved. They're leaving me be at the moment to concentrate on this tournament."

Birmingham has been touted as his most likely destination, where, like Carson in loan periods at Charlton and West Bromwich Albion, he could expect plenty of work.

In two games in Sweden, he has been beaten only by a penalty against Finland, but picked up a yellow card for time-wasting that may persuade Pearce to leave him out tomorrow rather than risking another one. Not that Hart is expecting the manager to take a half-hearted attitude against German opposition: "He wouldn't let us go half-hearted against a pub side."

Clearly not one for looking too far ahead, Hart is nevertheless prepared to contemplate the possibility of England lifting a Uefa trophy of any sort for the first time since 1991: "It would be huge. It's the kind of thing we need to be doing as a good, strong football nation. That's our plan but we've still got all sorts of hurdles to overcome."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
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

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea