England and Manchester City midfielder James Milner has backed teammate Joe Hart to bounce back from his recent struggles ahead of the pivotal World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine.
26-year-old Hart, who has won 33 senior caps since making his debut against Trinidad and Tobago in June 2008, has been the subject of sustained criticism recently as a result of a number of high-profile errors.
The former Shrewsbury Town goalkeeper was at fault for James Morrison's first-half strike for Scotland at Wembley last month while he also made costly errors during City's humiliating and shocking 3-2 defeat to Premier League newcomers Cardiff.
Yet despite those mistakes Milner, who has played alongside Hart since moving to the Etihad Stadium from top-flight rivals Aston Villa in August 2010, evidently believes in his teammate and insists that he is not suffering from a crisis of confidence.
“We’re lucky to have him," he was quoted by the Daily Telegraph. "He’s a victim of his own success because of how good he’s been and how quickly he’s become England’s No 1 and playing for Manchester City. People said he had a poor season last season but he won the Golden Glove.
“Some of his performances and the saves he made last season ... the Dortmund game stands out. We could have lost 8-1 very, very easily. It was one of the best goalkeeping performances I’ve ever seen. Today in training you can see he’s not struggling for form or confidence.
“He knows what comes with being England’s No1. With City and England you get to the top and you’re there to be shot down."
"If this is a so-called ‘blip’ in form – which it may be because his standards are so high – then he’s only going to come out of it better mentally. He will become an even better player for having this," he added.
Roy Hodgson's England, who currently occupy second place in Group H behind Montenegro, play Moldova at Wembley on Friday evening before facing a daunting trip to Kiev to face Mykhalo Fomenko's Ukraine four days later.