x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Hart hopes City break can take him to South Africa

When Joe Hart moved to Birmingham on loan this summer, his motive was not just this season, but his future ambitions.

When Joe Hart moved to Birmingham on loan this summer, his motive was not just this season, but his future ambitions. Having been Manchester City's No 1 goalkeeper before the arrival of Shay Given, it was difficult for him to get used to life out of the side and out of the limelight. Hart wanted, and needed, to play regularly. He refers to it as "job satisfaction" and that is something he is enjoying at St Andrew's.

What the temporary spell also meant was that he got the chance to attract the attention of the England manager Fabio Capello. He knew he could not do that from the bench at Eastlands, no matter how high profile City have become. It is a scenario that Ben Foster relates to at Manchester United and a reason why he wants to follow suit with a loan deal in January. Hart and Foster were both in the squad for the friendly against Brazil in Doha and are vying for one of the three spots for England's World Cup squad along with Robert Green and David James.

What could sway Capello's thinking is the one playing regularly and consistently enough at the top level, although Hart admits he faces a fight to make South Africa. "It would be an absolute dream, but I don't think at this moment I am in the top three," he said. "I believe I may be relying on someone else's misfortune in terms of injuries. I don't put too much pressure on myself, I just go and approach every game the same and always try to do my best.

"Going to the Blues for a season is a massive plus because I can still play in the top league and show people what I am all about." Hart, 22, has done that, playing an integral part in Birmingham's quest to stay in the top flight. Going into this weekend's games, Alex McLeish's side have the fourth-best defence this season behind the leaders Chelsea, Manchester United and Aston Villa. Hart will be aiming to keep that form going at Wolves today and upset some of his family members who supported the Wanderers as he grew up in Shropshire.

With Scott Dann and Roger Johnson resolute in front of him, that looks likely against a Wolves side who have scored just five goals at Molineux, which, along with Birmingham, is the league's joint-worst home record. Mick McCarthy had both centre-backs on his summer wish-list, but Johnson was too costly at £5million (Dh30m). Dann chose Birmingham when he left Coventry and revealed: "My instinct told me that Birmingham was the place to go and, of course, I've been very happy with that choice."

McCarthy will hope Kevin Doyle can upset them as he returns for the derby after being rested for the defeat at Chelsea following his World Cup exploits with Ireland. The frustrated Wolves manager added: "We need to get some wins, not particularly good performances. The players have been excellent, but have the points reflected the performance? No they haven't for whatever reason." akhan@thenational.ae

Wolves v Birmingham, KO 4pm, Showsports 4