Hart can be England great in Banks mould
England fly out to Euro 2012 today with Roy Hodgson stating that Joe Hart "will be vital" if the team are to progress through the group stage.
England boast a proud history of eminent shot-stoppers down the years from Gordon Banks to David Seaman via Peter Shilton, and Hart is the latest 'keeper of the faith. Even at this relatively early stage of his career, he appears a worthy successor to a tradition also including Ray Clemence and Joe Corrigan.
Scandalously overlooked by Fabio Capello at the 2010 World Cup, Hart now makes his tournament bow feted as one of the most admired 'keepers in Europe.
"He will be vital," observed manager Hodgson. "His form for Manchester City has been superb. When he has played for England he has done very well. If we are to do well, there is no doubt we will need Joe in top form.''
Although maturing promisingly, Hart has still much to do to be mentioned in the same breath as Banks and Shilton. Time is very much on his side: Hart, who has 18 caps, is 25, the same age as when Banks was first capped, while Shilton's final international came aged 40.
A likeable, straightforward character, Hart possesses that essential gift of recovering quickly from rare mistakes, not being distracted by them, but leaving all analysis until afterwards. Brimming with positivity, Hart will also happily take penalties as well as face them.
His concentration is good, heightened by playing behind the excellent Vincent Kompany-Joleon Lescott axis at City, making sure he is ready when called upon, perfect training for rarefied international demands.
"For long periods he didn't have a lot to do,'' reflected Hodgson of Hart's display against Belgium in England's final warm-up match.''
Hart is coached by Clemence, who also came up via the lower leagues, notably Scunthorpe United to Hart's Shrewsbury Town.
Clemence joined Corrigan on the bench in watching Shilton at the 1982 World Cup. However frustrating at the time in Spain, such experience of being so near yet so far will still have given Clemence useful insight. He will ensure back-ups Robert Green and Jack Butland feel fully involved at these Euros, making sure they are ready should any mishap befall Hart.
The decision to give Green the game against Norway in Oslo was a smart move. Clemence has championed Butland's case and the youngster will learn from training with an instantly tight-knit goalkeeping unit.
With respectful nods to Paul Robinson and David James, Hart's emergence has given England a true top-class presence between the posts for the first time since Seaman's retirement.
He follows in a rich tradition. (© Daily Telegraph, London)