Could Birmingham’s Hart be Capello’s England number one?
England manager Fabio Capello might well have found himself an unexpected Christmas present this year in Birmingham City goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Filling the gap between the sticks at next June’s World Cup finals in South Africa is perhaps the biggest conundrum Capello will face in the run up to soccer’s most glittering event, but Hart may just have made it a little easier.
The energetic England Under-21 international, on a season-long loan at the Midlands club from Manchester City, has been in inspired form this season — highlighted by two superb performances in recent games against Chelsea and Stoke City in the Premier League.
He is also currently the only in-form English keeper in international contention.
Current number one David James is 39-years-old and has not played in Portsmouth’s last eight matches due to injury, while West Ham’s Rob Green has never impressed in an England shirt and continues to be sporadic at club level.
Other contenders include Ben Foster, still residing third in Manchester United’s pecking order, and Paul Robinson, who has shown only slow signs of improvement at Blackburn Rovers.
In contrast, Hart’s form has coincided with Birmingham’s record unbeaten run and his consistency and relentless attitude to learn have earned plaudits from his manager Alex McLeish as well as opposition coaches such as Chelsea’s Carlo Ancelotti.
“I know the England coaches think a lot of him, and I think they will think even more of him now with his Birmingham performances,” McLeish said.
At 22-years-old, Hart has the agility, confidence and desire to at least earn him a spot on England’s plane to South Africa, if not the number one jersey. The serious lack of alternate options also helps his cause.
Have I missed anyone out? Wigan Athletic’s Chris Kirkland is a maybe or perhaps Capello should drop a division to look at West Bromwich Albion’s Scott Carson. Let us know your thoughts.