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.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Midsummer swimwear season is well and truly upon us – but diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice