City goalkeeper the Hart of England

He is unfazed by the chaos surrounding the national team and looks nailed on as a future captain

Joe Hart turned out to be the best signing of Stuart Pearce's relatively brief career in club management, joining Manchester City from Shrewsbury Town in 2006. He was in Pearce's first Under-21s squad the following year despite the fact he was a relative unknown on loan at Tranmere Rovers and now, when Pearce takes charge of the England senior team tonight at Wembley, it is Hart who is one of the few certainties to be on the team-sheet.

It is unlikely, although not impossible, that England's caretaker manager could announce this morning that Hart is also his captain for tonight's game against the Netherlands, and if it is not today then surely at some point in Hart's career he will get the job.

In fact, for a player who has won just 16 caps – and never been on the losing side for England – Hart's ascent to a position of seniority in the squad since the World Cup finals two years ago has been remarkable. There is no player of his age, 24, and currently fit, who is so crucial to the immediate future of the team, and none who can be more certain of a key role at Euro 2012 this summer.

Consider the contenders. Rio Ferdinand has not played since June last year and Steven Gerrard not since November 2010. John Terry's long-term international future must be in doubt given the decision to take the captaincy away from him. Wayne Rooney is suspended for the first two games of the European Championships and is currently out with a throat problem. Jack Wilshere is among the long-term injured.

It leaves Hart as the one man whose immediate future does not have some kind of question mark hanging over it. He has been in every squad since the last World Cup finals and started every game apart from the November 2010 friendly against France. His dominance of the position has already forced Ben Foster into an open-ended sabbatical and Robert Green required some persuading that coming back into the fold was worth the hassle.

Even Sir Alex Ferguson says that Hart is the best goalkeeper England have produced in 20 years and regrets allowing Pearce to beat United to the punch in signing him from Shrewsbury. Ferguson claimed that he could have got the player for £100,000. Pearce said yesterday that Hart's fee of £600,000, rising to £1.5m was "right on the limit" of City's budget for a teenage goalkeeper back in 2006. "We didn't have much money at Manchester City then," he said, "so he fitted the bill just nicely."

It is one of those unusual features of international football that, because of the few games played relative to club football, circumstances can alter dramatically from one match to the next. In another period of frenzied change for the national team, Hart, who won three caps in two years before he was installed as No 1 by Fabio Capello after the South Africa World Cup, has been one of the few constants in the England team.

Hart seemed to think yesterday that the choice of captain for tonight's game was between Gerrard and Scott Parker. It is worth noting that the last time Gerrard appeared for England there was a dispute between Liverpool and Fabio Capello about him being over-played which may result in the midfielder being used sparingly tonight and could have an effect on Pearce's thinking over the captaincy.

As for whether he could do it, Hart had a pretty straightforward answer for those who questioned whether a goalkeeper was suitable to be a captain when he pointed out that the current world champions, Spain, have a goalkeeper as their captain.

Given that Pearce had made an unusual decision yesterday to delay the naming of the captain, it was telling that Hart was sent out as a safe bat to face the press. When it was put to him that England, without a manager, a captain and three months from a major international tournament do not find themselves in an ideal position, he was blunt in his response. "It never is. You just have to get on with it. No, not [a problem] for me. You've got to roll with it. 'It' happens – obviously I can't say the word – but you know what I mean.

"There's always something interesting going on, let's not lie about it. There's always something going on. That's what we are and the quality shows in the players, we just get on with it."

It also takes a certain degree of confidence in one's position in the team to admit – in as many words – that "shit happens" at the FA, although that is demonstrably the case. Hart, an easy-going Salopian, appears to have the kind of attitude that is crucial for a goalkeeper at the elite level. They cannot allow too much to affect them. He has come through his less impressive performances, like the one against Switzerland last June, without damaging his confidence.

He played two tournaments under Pearce with the Under-21s and was suspended for the final of the European Championships in 2009 after being booked for sledging the Sweden players during the penalty shoot-out that England won. He remains unrepentant in that respect. "I think I was pointlessly booked, I didn't break any rules," he said. "If I had I would have been the hardest person on myself. I think I'm pretty honest and pretty fair. It was so petty the decision. But that is gone."

In the end it fell to Hart to defend his manager Pearce who, despite his willingness to step in tonight, and his eagerness to plan for the summer's championship, has few major allies when it comes to getting the job on a permanent basis. Being so young when he joined City, Hart had little contact with Pearce, the manager at the club, but clearly has developed a connection with him since.

Hart said: "I think he [Pearce] has developed. It's a totally different role from the City role. All three of them were really different. City was a club side, he was a stand-in, did great and became the manager. The Under-21s was all about development and getting people ready and I have only seen him for a day and a half as the senior manager. So all three have been different. He is a passionate guy. Anything involving England is just perfect for him, for who he is and what he is about. Hopefully he can inspire us."

Hart will play behind another new England back four tonight, whoever Pearce picks. There is no Terry, no Ferdinand, and Joleon Lescott was only called up yesterday. "Yeah, it's an extra challenge for me and an extra challenge for them," he said, "but I think potentially it could be the back four for years and could be the best ones potentially in the world so it could be great."

Pearce described his goalkeeper as a "big influence" around the squad who will be around for some time. Hart turns 25 in April, by which time he will have 17 England caps. On his 25th birthday, Peter Shilton had just three more than that and he, of course, ended up with 125. It certainly makes you wonder how far Hart could go.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
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

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz