Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart stays in firing line as Roy Hodgson keeps the faith


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The Independent Football

Roy Hodgson has reaffirmed his faith in embattled Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart, even going as far as saying he believed it would do the player more damage to leave him out the England team now that he found himself on the bench at his club.

There was also the promise for Hart that he will start one of the two friendly games this month, probably the second against Germany. Hodgson certainly seemed to suggest that he believes England's No 1 goalkeeper will be first choice at City again by the time he names his World Cup finals squad in March.

"If I also show a lack of faith in him [Hart], which I think he would regard as very undeserving after what he has done for England, then it would definitely affect his confidence negatively," Hodgson said. "I never had any intention of doing that."

Sympathising with the difficult circumstances that Manuel Pellegrini found himself in regarding Hart's position at City, Hodgson said: "Sometimes as a club manager you get put under pressure to make a decision, but I'm not convinced in my own mind that he has written Joe Hart off in any way. Maybe he thought that withdrawing him from the firing line might be a good thing. I unfortunately can't withdraw him from the firing line. He'll play for England."

Last night Hart issued a statement via his lawyers denying a report that he had withdrawn £100,000 in gambling chips during one night out at a Manchester casino in December. Bizarrely the allegations were made by a member of the boy band Union J, Josh Cuthbert, who had been with Hart, Gareth Barry and their respective partners on that occasion.

Hart denied withdrawing the sum of money or a sum that even "remotely approached" £100,000. In a statement, his legal advisors said: "The main thrust of the story is misconceived and untrue." They added that Hart was "an infrequent visitor to casinos".

Asked about the story earlier in the day, Hodgson said of the report: "I don't want to say 'No, it doesn't concern me' because every aspect of a player's life concerns me. But I'm pleased to hear it was a year ago. And I would rather hope it is something Joe himself has corrected. I would have to speak to him about it."