Hart will start crucial World Cup qualifiers as Hodgson gives him his full backing
England manager Roy Hodgson has expressed his full support for under-fire Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart ahead of crucial World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland this month. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Joe Hart will start England’s critical World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland this month after Roy Hodgson flung his full support behind the goalkeeper despite recent high-profile errors.
Hart was arguably culpable for two of Bayern Munich’s goals as the European champions beat Manchester City 3-1 in the Champions League at the Etihad stadium on Wednesday, his display drawing criticism from the England coach, Gary Neville, in his capacity as an analyst for Sky.
There have been other mistakes that have cost his side, notably against Scotland and Cardiff, but Hodgson is not tempted to turn to either Celtic’s Fraser Forster or John Ruddy of Norwich as England, top of Group H, seek to secure their passage to Brazil.
‘I’m not blind’
“I’m not blind so I do realise this is not a good moment for Joe,” said Hodgson. “He’s a proud man and a very good goalkeeper, so when he’s criticised he’s very unhappy. But I still believe in Joe Hart.
“I have faith in him and strongly believe he won’t let England down and he’ll play well. He’s never let me or the team down in my time during my 18 months here, and I’ve every faith he’ll have the confidence to put this behind him.
“He’ll come through the games, get us through and put that bad form behind him.
“I’m convinced this is not the right moment to put a Fraser Forster into the team and give him that responsibility, or even a John Ruddy, who’s come back from injury.
“It’d be a big ask to put someone in for these games. I’m not greatly in favour, especially with goalkeepers, of dropping them the moment they have a bad game and putting in someone who’s had a good game. We have to look beyond that.”
Indeed, promoting the uncapped Forster or Ruddy, who boasts a solitary appearance, would provoke memories of Steve McClaren’s sudden elevation of Scott Carson for the final qualifier ahead of Euro 2008 after Paul Robinson’s loss of form. Carson was duly exposed for two of the visitors’ three goals as England were beaten and missed out on the tournament.
Hodgson’s 23-man party includes Rooney and Daniel Sturridge, who missed last month’s games against Moldova and Ukraine through injury, while retaining the youngsters Ross Barkley and the uncapped Andros Townsend.
Hodgson reiterated he had no qualms about Neville being critical of England players while working as a pundit. “Gary only ever calls things as he sees them,” he said. “And he’s not afraid to be critical.” –