McLeish backs Hart to be England's number one

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The Independent Football

Alex McLeish believes Birmingham City's on-loan goalkeeper Joe Hart must be "a major contender" to be England's No 1 at this summer's World Cup.

The Birmingham manager says Hart is on the way to becoming "a great goalkeeper" if he maintains his current form. Hart made the season-long switch from Manchester City to St Andrew's to play regular first-team football and to press his international claims.

Hart has made a major contribution to City's current top-10 position in the Premier League. He also defied Nottingham Forest with several fine saves in Birmingham's 1-0 home success in their FA Cup third-round replay on Tuesday night.

"The Italian coaches [with England] will be looking for all the ingredients from a goalkeeper – kicking, handling, shot-stopping, distribution," McLeish said. "With Joe, from what I can see, all the ingredients are there. Is he good enough for the England No 1 spot? I think he is up there. He's got to be a major contender. It seems a bit open [the No 1 spot] and I think there is an opportunity for someone.

"Fabio Capello is a top coach and doesn't need any advice from me but I am sure the England camp will be scrutinising all the goalkeepers very closely," McLeish added.

"Joe was on top form again against Forest and he has made some great saves and kept us in the game at a time when Forest can count themselves unlucky. He has also played his part in the league and saved us some valuable points. They say great goalkeepers can save you 10 points during the course of a season and Joe is well on his way to that. In my opinion, he is on his way to becoming a great goalkeeper if he keeps playing to these current standards."