Given the hype surrounding Joe Hart, you would be forgiven for thinking that he is Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton and David Seaman rolled into one.
Having seemingly fought off Shay Given in Manchester City’s battle of the keepers at the start of the season, Hart has justified his selection with some impressive early season performances. He now seems set to be England’s regular number one and there’s no reason why he can’t be an international keeper for years to come.
The trouble is, we’ve heard it all before. Hart is the latest in a long line of English keepers supposedly destined for greatness. Sure he looks promising, but so did many others. Paul Robinson was supposedly the main man, but was sold by Spurs and mistakes in Euro 2008 qualifiers against Croatia and Russia cost him his England place – Robinson has subsequently retired from international football.
Robinson was dropped for the return match with Croatia, his replacement being Scott Carson. Carson was at fault for Niko Krankjar’s opener in only his second international and has gained only one further cap. A lack of big-game experience seemed to work against Carson; before finally settling at West Brom, he made only a handful of appearances for Leeds United and Liverpool, as well as loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton and Aston Villa. Despite this, Steve McClaren considered Carson ready to play in a match on which England’s qualification for a major championship depended. Carson having just turned 25, at least has time on his side.
Chris Kirkland was at one time Britain’s most expensive keeper, but failed to fulfil early promise. Ben Foster meanwhile, stayed too long at Manchester United. There were also high hopes for Richard Wright and Nicky Weaver, both of whom struggled with form and injuries over the years.
It’s clear that Joe Hart has the potential to go to the very top of the game. If his level of performance in the months and years ahead can match his confidence, there should be no stopping him.
However Hart cannot be considered the finished article, and is not at the level of club rival Shay Given. His selection as Man City’s first-choice is more about the long-term, given his age and the risk of losing him to a rival if he isn’t playing regularly. It remains to be seen where Hart will be mentioned in the same breath as the great, or simply the good.