Has Joe Hart booked his World Cup place?

Never one to dish out praise willy nilly, Fabio Capello has stated that Birmingham stopper Joe Hart’s form has been “fantastic” this season before adding that what stopped him stepping up the England squad on a regular basis looks to now become a thing of the past when saying “before he made mistakes but he makes fewer now because he plays regularly and has more confidence”.

Upon signing Shay Given for £8m from Newcastle, Man City manager at the time Mark Hughes looked to have cut off Hart’s position in the first team with the feeling being that a season spent on the bench at Eastlands would stunt his growth and cut off any chance of him being called up to England’s World Cup squad for South Africa in 2010, but a move to Birmingham beckoned and he is now one of the success stories of the season.

A goalkeeper of real potential signed from Shrewsbury by Stuart Pearce, he was originally given his chance by Sven at City as Hart and Kasper Schmeichel jostled for the number 1 jersey in the injured Andreas Isaksson’s absence. Hart won out and displayed a maturity beyond his years and established it as his own before a rockier second season followed and Given signed on in January, replacing him as first choice.

But Capello’s ringing endorsement of Hart’s form at Birmingham probably means the keeper’ is on the plane to South Africa already with his rivals seemingly dropping like flies around him. Capello said of Man Utd keeper Ben Foster yesterday that “it’s very difficult for Foster because he’s not playing”. Capello has said time and again that in order for a player to go to the World Cup he must be playing regularly, be in good form and injury free and at present Foster doesn’t tick any of those boxes on anywhere near enough a regular occasion to be justified in his selection as he’s currently third in the Utd pecking order behind both Van Der Saar and Kuszczak.

David James’s injury problems have worsened this year and up until this weekend he’d been left out in favour of Stoke’s newly signed goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. This was due to a clause in his contract which stipulated that if he played another 10 games, Portsmouth would have to offer him a new one-year contract extension, which due to their financial plight they could obviously not afford and he has since waived this right in a mark of refreshing realism from a modern day pro.

It would seem the battle for the number 1 spot is still an open one and there is a lot of football to be played between now and the end of the season but Hart looks to have booked himself a seat on the plane with some truly tremendous form.

At present it looks as if both James and West Ham’s Robert Green will be joining him with Green probably just about the front runner, but should Hart continue his rich vein of form he may just sneak himself into the starting line-up for the friendly against Egypt played on March 3rd at Wembley and who knows, come June time he could be lining up against the likes of the USA, Algeria and Slovenia at the World Cup in what would cap a truly momentous year for the youngster.

Written By James McManus

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