Manchester City's Joe Hart has been told he is England's long-term No 1 goalkeeper ahead of tonight's opening European championship qualifier against Bulgaria at Wembley. Having won the battle to become first-choice keeper at City ahead of Shay Given, the Republic of Ireland international, England goalkeeping coach Ray Clemence has advised Fabio Capello, the England manager, that the best way to get optimum performance out of the 23-year-old Hart is tell him he is the man in possession. Capello was widely criticised during the World Cup for not telling his players of the team line-up until the 11th hour, creating uncertainty in the camp and nervousness among the goalkeepers in particular.
Some England insiders believe the error Robert Green made in the opening game against the US was in part because the West Ham United keeper did not know until the morning of the game he was playing ahead of David James. Green was axed after that game and although veteran James, 40, then came in and performed well, his international career now seems to be over. Capello has since been told by Clemence that he can no longer afford to keep his keepers on tenterhooks over their selection. In the early part of his playing career Clemence alternated with Peter Shilton as England's goalkeeper but it proved counterproductive, with both keepers making unusual errors because of the added pressure they were under.
Even though Clemence eventually lost out to Shilton he agreed that one or the other had to be made the first choice for the benefit of the team, in particular with the defence. He has cited that experience to Capello. Barring a drastic loss of form or fitness Hart has been told he is the first choice between the posts ahead of Ben Foster, Robert Green, Chris Kirkland and Scott Carson, who had to pull out of the squad yesterday because of a family bereavement.
However, Hart is not taking anything for granted. "I don't think anyone knows they are playing," he told the Press Association. Hart's competitive debut for England in tonight's Euro 2012 qualifier with Bulgaria at Wembley will benefit Shrewsbury Town, his former club, by £500,000 (Dh2,824m). The English League Two club receives a financial windfall from Manchester City as part of the deal struck when the Premier League side bought Hart.
"It is huge money for a team like that and I am pleased for them," Hart said of Shrewsbury. firstname.lastname@example.org