Joe Hart: World-class Kane can lead England to glory

In-form striker has Slovenia in his sights as England bid to seal World Cup finals spot

Joe Hart has first-hand experience of that sickening sense of helplessness, the one that grips any opponent whenever the ball veers towards Harry Kane alone inside the penalty area.

He endured it a little over a week ago at the London Stadium. He would have been aware out of the corner of his eye of the forward loitering menacingly in the centre as he watched Dele Alli break beyond West Ham United's defence and sprint down the left side of his box.

Hart was still chuntering at that concession when, moments later, he blocked Alli’s shot with his right thigh only to see the loose ball dribble inexorably onto the striker’s left foot.

There was an inevitability about everything that followed, the goalkeeper's desperate dive, with Hart left lowering his head to the turf in frustration. Everything Kane touches at present is flying in. The only consolation for the Manchester City loanee is that for the next few days at least, Kane is a team-mate rather than an adversary.


“He is hot, isn’t he?” Hart said.

"You just know you will get a hard shot with Harry. If you give him half an inch he will get a strike away on goal and make you work. There is no real secret to him and that is the brilliance of Harry. It is not dazzling skills. He is just brilliant at what he does, putting it in the corner. He is one of the best out there. He keeps scoring goals and you cannot ask for any more than that. Long may it continue in an England shirt."

Where Hart's West Ham suffered – just as Malta, Everton, Borussia Dortmund, Apoel Nicosia and Huddersfield Town did in September – the England goalkeeper hopes Slovenia will follow suit.

Kane has been unstoppable for the past month, with 13 goals in eight appearances for club and country. There have been five in his past four England games, going back to that late equaliser at Hampden Park at the start of the summer. Maintain this kind of form and should passage be secured to the World Cup finals with success tomorrow, then England can hope to travel to Russia propelled by a player capable of taking the tournament by storm.

“He is scoring as many goals as the people we relate to as being world-class, and he has been doing it for many seasons,” Hart said. “Harry gets put in that bracket, and he deserves to be.

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"He has Mauricio Pochettino [at Spurs], one of the hottest managers in the world, who regards him so highly, and there are reasons for that. Harry will keep being Harry and will keep scoring goals. I see that belief in him.

“Some of the rubbish that came his way when he did not score in August – but I still regarded Harry as the one you saw at the end of September with the same frightening number of goals.

"Whether he keeps his form, scores 40 goals or ends up with 20, he is still a top player and we are lucky to have him. We have others in our squad, like Marcus Rashford, or Jermain Defoe who always has a goal in him, and a fully fit Daniel Sturridge is one of the best I've ever seen or played with. We have some top players. So lining up behind this team feels good and I feel we can do something. It's down to us to do it."

With qualification tantalisingly close, England find themselves in that familiar position of hoping, praying, that next summer can be different. That potential will finally be fulfilled and talent realised.

Hart has been here plenty of times before. As the most-capped player in Gareth Southgate’s squad, with an England career that will have stretched back a decade by the time the World Cup kicks off, he has been to four major tournaments.

Yet, for all the encouraging qualification campaigns, those events in South Africa and Ukraine, Brazil and France resulted in only four England victories.

Hart will overtake Gordon Banks's 73 caps by starting tomorrow's game at Wembley, and would equal David Seaman if he plays in Vilnius on Sunday but personal landmarks are not a priority.

“It was never a dream to play for England because I just loved playing football, and to play for England was what other people did,” he said.

“I just loved to support. So to play for my country is the proudest thing I could ever do and to have this many caps is amazing. But the most important thing for me is to do something with that. I have qualified for tournaments – that is done. It is not about qualifying any more. It is about trying to hunt down and be a part of that special moment when England do well at a tournament. I want to be part of that. I want to add to qualifying.

“I feel great behind this team. It really excites me and fascinates what we have to offer but I have always felt that way. That is the worrying thing. People have always asked me what is the key and what needs to be different in a tournament. I cannot give an answer. If I could I would have a lot better record in tournaments.

“I believe in the squad from the bottom of my heart. I believe we are capable but there is a big difference in believing in something and doing it. That is why we want to qualify on Thursday and take a good performance on Sunday and then look forward to making a big impact at this tournament. And use the belief and the quality to do so.”

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