Shilton is backing Hart to go straight in at No 1

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The Independent Football

Peter Shilton was the first England footballer to learn how ruthless Fabio Capello could be. Now the country's most-capped player believes the Italian must be similarly decisive over which of his three goalkeepers starts the World Cup against the United States in less than three weeks' time.

In the years leading up to 1982 in Spain, one of three global tournaments he appeared in, Shilton alternated between England's posts with Ray Clemence. But Shilton was named as Ron Greenwood's first choice ahead of the finals and he insists that Capello should also let Robert Green, David James and Joe Hart know where they stand.

"From a goalkeeper's point of view, you want to know," Shilton, 60, said before swapping his dinner suit for a tracksuit and saving all but four penalties he faced at an event in support of Brainwave, a charity which helps children with brain injuries or genetic conditions. "Capello should say, 'Unless he gets injured or suffers a loss of form, he's my No 1'."

Shilton's assessment of the contenders reflects the dilemma facing the England manager as he prepares to tackle Mexico at Wembley tomorrow. "When Rob first joined West Ham he was a bit apprehensive, but he has become mentally tougher and more confident," the 125-time international said. "He's always had good technique, and his kicking is very good. He hasn't done a lot wrong or had the sort of scenario which cost David James and Paul Robinson where they made mistakes two or three games running.

"If James was playing like he did two years ago when he had a great season at Portsmouth there wouldn't be any discussion. He's still our most experienced keeper and you would have no hesitation putting him in, but I'm looking at the other two now and thinking they deserve their chance. He's had his and didn't take it completely. Hart made real progress at Birmingham and has been the most consistent.

"It's a big jump from club football and half an international to the World Cup, but it's not impossible. Green has his nose in front but I wouldn't be surprised if Hart came through."

Shilton regards England's goalkeeping options as reasonably healthy, viewing Ben Foster's £6m move from Manchester United to Birmingham as encouraging. He is concerned, however, that no one has established himself, and fears quality levels could decline. "[The] technical side of coaching goalkeepers has disappeared over the past 10 years. There's a lot more coaches who just give keepers exercise, but I'm talking technique. There could be a great improvement there."

Three years into an England career which stretched from 1970 alongside Bobby Moore to the Italia 90 semi-finals with Paul Gascoigne, Shilton faced Capello twice in five months. The thrusting Italy midfielder beat him with a header in Turin while his side-footed shot settled the game at Wembley.

Shilton would have preferred a British manager to succeed Steve McClaren but Capello's approach has impressed him. "He has brought back a lot of basic principles. He's strong on discipline and organisation, and I like the way he communicates with the media, not getting too involved and putting across simple messages."

Can England rule the world? "We've as good a chance as anyone, but Spain and Brazil are up there and there's another two or three in with a shout. There's a lot of ability and hopefully Capello will have us organised defensively because we need to keep more clean sheets. We also have to prove we have enough of the stuff that wins trophies. If you had 11 John Terrys or 11 Wayne Rooneys, it wouldn't be a problem. We still need to show we've got it."