Roy Hodgson has given his backing to Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart, claiming that he is still England’s number one.
Hart’s international future was thrown into doubt when City boss Manuel Pellegrini dropped the 26-year-old in favour of his understudy Costel Pantilimon following a series of high profile blunders.
The final straw for the former Real Madrid boss came when Hart charged off his line in the closing stages of City’s 2-1 defeat at Chelsea, allowing Fernando Torres to capitalise on a bewildered Matija Nastasic to snatch the winner.
But Hodgson backed his man, telling Sky Sports: “Joe is still our number one goalkeeper.”
Ahead of England’s international friendlies against Germany and Chile next week it had been questioned whether Hodgson would prefer Celtic’s Fraser Forster or Norwich City’s John Ruddy over Hart in order to provide them with international experience in preparation for the World Cup next summer.
After announcing his 28-man squad for the two games though, Hodgson revealed that Hart will start at least one of the matches.
“Joe will start one of the two games, but I don’t think he will start both because I feel it’s important for me to look at one of the other two ‘keepers, possibly both, I haven’t decided yet,” he added.
“I would guess it’s more likely he will start against Germany rather than Chile, but I don’t wish to be held to that.”
The former Fulham manager refused to be drawn on questions about what he will do if Pantilimon continues to keep Hart out of the Manchester City squad.
“As a football manager who is used to being criticised very heavily, I hope that during my time as national coach there won’t be any league managers who receive any criticism from me,” he commented.
“Every manager must manage his club the way he thinks is the best to manage his club and make the decisions regarding players that he must make.
“As far as I am concerned I look at the England goalkeepers who are available and then I choose the ones I want. After that I pick the one I want to play in goal, and up to now that has been Joe Hart.
“That will continue to be so but that doesn’t imply any criticism of Manuel Pellegrini or Manchester City, who is entitled to do the job as he wants to do with his club.”
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