• International football

Hart expects fight for England No. 1 spot

ESPN staff
March 20, 2013
Hart allays crisis fears

England goalkeeper Joe Hart has admitted his season has "not been brilliant'' by his own standards but says he will battle to keep the No. 1 jersey.

The return of Ben Foster to the squad - after a two-year break from international football - for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro has given Hart some competition, but the 25-year-old is determined to try to keep hold of the top spot.

"It's great to see Ben. He is a consistent performer, someone I get on well with, when we train and to play against,'' Hart said. "It's good to have keepers like that around. There are three top quality keepers here plus Jack Butland and John Ruddy, and everywhere you look there is good talent.

"Is Foster good enough to push me? Yes, but I've felt that every time I've come away with England. My job when I was first involved was to really push hard. We all train like we are going to play and and push each other and it's really good. If anyone of the three played, then we'd be in a strong position.''

However, Hart, who won the Premier League title with Manchester City and participated in Euro 2012, will not give up his spot easily.

He said: "I'm in that privileged spot at the moment. I didn't dream of this spot because I didn't think it would happen. I'm doing what I've always wanted to do. I love it, I'll keep working and training hard if there are no keepers or 1,000 keepers.

"That No. 1 spot is one I want to keep and last summer [Euro 2012] was a real high point in my career. It was one of the best footballing things I've done. To play in a tournament like that is a dream.''

Hart concedes that he and City have struggled to maintain last season's standards, but he still refuses to give up the title to Manchester United.

He said: "My season has not been brilliant. It's had its good times but it's football. It's what I love doing. I've enjoyed it, it's been tough, things haven't always gone my way. I'm enjoying the fight and getting back in there.

"Sometimes you take knocks, that's football, you take opinions, but you've got to be strong. I feel strong, good, that I'm doing the right things and hopefully I can have a good end to the season.

"I understand you have your great nights and sometimes things don't go the way you want. That's the way it is. I'm my strongest critic but I would never bury myself. It's pretty obvious when you make a mistake as a keeper, you don't need to dwell on it too long. It's out there.''

Hart knows England will be hot favourites to dispose of minnows San Marino on Friday evening. However, any fears about conceding a goal against them are outweighed by ensuring England avoid any upsets before the more demanding challenge of facing Montenegro on Tuesday.

Hart said: "I just checked up on them to see if San Marino have scored a goal recently but they haven't. Someone is going to concede against them and hopefully, if I'm playing, it won't be me. But the main focus is to win. If they score, hopefully we score more and it's more important, the position in the group, rather than looking silly.''

It will be a different experience for Hart to play in front of 7,000 fans after the euphoria of beating Brazil at a near full Wembley last month.

He said: "That's the beauty of international football. We can go to stadiums of 85,000 mad passionate football fans and then you've still got to go and do the hard yards.

"You are almost on your own, it's us against them, and it will be another one to tick off. And hopefully we can get another three points in the grand scheme of things to get into the World Cup.

"Everyone is trying to get into the World Cup. It's a great tournament to be in and nations are getting stronger all around the world. We feel we are good enough to do it but we've got to do it on the field and not in press conferences like this.''

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