England manager Roy Hodgson has opted to stick with Joe Hart as his first-choice for the crucial games against Poland and Montenegro despite a string of costly mistakes in his recent performances.
Hart was at fault for two of Bayern Munich’s goals in the 3-1 defeat in the Champions League match on Wednesday and Hodgson has sprung to the support of his beleaguered keeper.
"I'm not blind so I do realise this is not a good moment for Joe. He's a proud man and a very good goalkeeper, so when he's criticised he's very unhappy” he told The Guardian.
“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”.
There has been growing pressure for Hodgson to drop Hart in favour of Celtic keeper Fraser Forster who put in another impressive display in the Champions League defeat to Barcelona midweek, but Hodgson insists the pressure would be too great and that Hart deserves his place.
"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,” he said.
Hart will be relieved to keep his place for the national side but will not need reminding what is at stake as England look to secure qualifications to next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Since becoming England’s No.1 in 2010 Hart has rarely looked like losing his starting place, but uncharacteristic errors have started creeping into his game - something former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini publicly criticised him of last season.
Hodgson is aware that upheaval in the goalkeeping department is more often than not disastrous as demonstrated by then England manager Steve McClaren’s decision to drop out-of-form Paul Robinson in favour of Scott Carson ahead of the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia.
Carson endured a torrid evening and was culpable for two of the three Croatia goals as England were humbled at Wembley and failed to qualify for the tournament.
Hodgson is aware that the team must have confidence in their goalkeeper but insists Hart is still the right man for the job.
"I know anxiety can transmit itself to the other players, so that will be a concern, but I believe that won't happen and he will have the confidence because he's the England No.1”.
“Not long ago, under a year, he was being described as the world's best goalkeeper. You don't go from that to someone who doesn't deserve a place in the team”
Time will tell whether Hodgson’s gamble to stick with Hart will pay off or not, but ahead of two of the most important matches in his career thus far the under-fire keeper will need to be at his best, or risk losing his place.
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