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Hart deserves England chance

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Phil McNulty | 20:58 UK time, Saturday, 2 January 2010

Joe Hart left behind Manchester City's Abu Dhabi billions to seek first-team football and a change of fortune at Birmingham City. He is now on course to land the jackpot of a place in England's World Cup squad.

Hart started the season as a rank outsider to make coach Fabio Capello's final list for South Africa - but World Cup squads have a habit of throwing up surprises and the 22-year-old is making an impressive case.

He headed for St Andrew's after being ousted by Shay Given's expensive arrival at Eastlands, and his cause is being helped by a convenient co-incidence. Hart is maturing before our very eyes as holes appear in England's goalkeeping resources with alarming regularity.

Hart is not likely to be England's first-choice in South Africa - answers on a postcard for who that might be though - but he showed in a faultless FA Cup third-round display at Nottingham Forest that he now deserves a place in the squad on merit.

hartgetty595.jpgHart has been key to Birmingham's rise up the Premier League table

Billy Davies has once again demonstrated his expertise at fashioning a side to challenge for promotion from the Championship, and they used the platform of the FA Cup to suggest they have what it takes to stay the course.

But they ran into a goalkeeper in Hart who has grown in stature and presence with the regular games afforded him by Birmingham manager Alex McLeish, the Scot who might just be doing England a World Cup turn by nurturing this young talent.

Robert Earnshaw's squandered penalty aside, Forest's greatest frustration came when they were confronted by Hart's formidable barrier, with brilliant saves from the Wales striker and Chris Cohen examples of his finest work.

I believed inexperience and a lack of exposure at the highest level would make Hart a contender for England's goalkeeping spot in the 2012 European Championship rather than this World Cup. Study the evidence, and the failings of his peers, and it suggests we should readjust the sights and bring forward his promotion.

Portsmouth's David James is ageing and unreliable, both in terms of form and fitness. Robert Green has been having a mixed season at West Ham United and Ben Foster is not even making the bench at Old Trafford these days.

With Blackburn's Paul Robinson still not fully trusted it would appear, the next cab off the rank is Hart and he is in a run of wonderful form. Youth will bring mistakes, but he has surely raced head of Foster in the reckoning.

Manchester City have already told Birmingham in no uncertain terms that Hart is not for permanent sale - thus presenting the youngster with a long-term problem with Given's powers showing no signs of diminishing.

So for now he stays at Birmingham on loan, with the obvious possibility of attracting interest from even bigger clubs should his development continue. Liverpool's Pepe Reina is outstanding, but Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal all need strengthening in goal.

This is a decision for another day, but Hart will not be short of suitors if his best option is Manchester City's reserves or another spell out on loan. He will not settle for gathering dust behind expensive acquisitions - and why should he?

McLeish will try to extend his loan for another season if City cannot be persuaded to sell. He showed faith in Hart and has been rewarded, and McLeish may hope this counts for something when he makes his next move.

mcleish595.jpgBirmingham boss McLeish has been rewarded for his faith in Hart

I asked McLeish at the City Ground what had been behind Hart's development at Birmingham. He told me: "I think it is his all-round game that has been impressive.

"People were telling me after one or two games this season that I should be thinking of making a change. I just thought that they couldn't see the good things that he was doing.

"We discussed it and tweaked a couple of things and it has gone on from there. He is a guy who wants to improve, wants to learn and who wants to be the best. It always helps when you have a student who is responsive to your ideas and Joe is certainly that."

Capello is an admirer of Hart but has been waiting for him to move through crucial stages of his education. With so much uncertainty over England's goalkeeping position, the Italian's major World Cup worry, it is now a case of needs must and Hart should start against Egypt at Wembley in March.

Forest boss Davies was convinced McLeish would give this valuable asset a rest at the City Ground on Saturday. He was wrong and Hart was the main obstacle between the Championship side and a deserved win against one of the Premier League's form teams.

Davies, however, bristled with positivity and defiant body language about the excellence of Forest's passing approach and pleasing-on-the-eye style. He correctly identified that it was only let down by an immaturity that betrayed the lack of a clinical finish, but there was so much to admire elsewhere.

As he celebrated a year in charge, Davies could reflect on a job well done as he has taken Forest from fourth from bottom of the Championship to third place and promotion contenders this season.

He wanted to use this FA Cup tie as a measure of Forest's progress this season, and when I asked him was he encouraged by what he had seen, Davies was lavish in praise of his young team.

"Without doubt. You don't dominate the first 45 minutes in the manner we did without being proud of the way the players approached the task," he said. "I was disappointed not be two or three up.

"Their fans were really quiet and I think it was a shock to the system to see their team dominated by a good Nottingham Forest team."

And Davies believes, with justification, that he has a flourishing goalkeeping talent of his own in Lee Camp, who kept Birmingham's late surge at bay after they were sparked into action following Earnshaw's penalty miss.

Of course promotion is Forest's priority, and on a day when the FA Cup again came in for heavy criticism with the spotlight on small attendances and weakened teams, they and Birmingham showed its spirit was alive and well at the City Ground.

Birmingham brought 4,485 fans in a crowd of nearly 21,000 - so I am happy to close my eyes and ears to those who seem so keen to dance on the grave of this wonderful competition.

And for Forest, it was further evidence that this grand old club is once again moving in the right direction under the guidance of the abrasive and gifted Davies.

On a day when Wigan and Hull mustered a paltry 5,335 spectators at the DW Stadium, Forest put them to shame and showed this is the sort of club that would be warmly welcomed back in the Premier League.

Davies was a victim of his own largely unexpected success when he took Derby County into the Premier League - far better than being a victim of his own failure. There are signs he could also take Forest up ahead of schedule.

It was a good day for Forest despite their failure to close out the win. And it was also another good day for Hart - and even better days may lie ahead for him this summer.

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  • Comment number 1.

    I've been saying it since the 07/08 season, what a great talent he is and that he will be Englands No.1 in the future. James, Hart and Green are the 3 that should go.

  • Comment number 2.

    1st Comment :)

    No doubt, with current form Hart deserves England chance...

  • Comment number 3.

    I think this is a good statement about a goalkeeper who could be probably our number one keeper for england.

    David James is ageing and not reliable with pompey anymore, i can't see him becoming our number one for not long as we cant rely on him for the world cup.

    Robert Green has been having a mixed season as he can also be un reliable to the england squad, but he can perform better.

    Ben Foster isn't performing well, even if he's making most of the season at Man.United's bench.

    And Paul Robinson well, I can't be sure about him after his previous displays for england.

    And yet, it's Joe Hart who has had so many expectations as's keeper, now at Birmingham though, we are seeing what Joe Hart is really like and he should deserve to be our number one keeper for certain in my opinion.

    Come on England ! !

  • Comment number 4.

    completely agree with you here Phil

  • Comment number 5.

    Scott Dann and especially Roger Johnson also deserve credit for Birmingham's brilliant defensive record. I hope the pair are on Capello's radar too.

  • Comment number 6.

    i will continue saying this, if england did not win the world cup it will be because of goalkeeper's issue. i dont think david james is a world cup goalkeeper anymore, and relying on hart in the world cup will be a great mistake. remember? people like messi will play in the world cup.

  • Comment number 7.

    From the article: "Given's powers showing now signs of diminishing."

    Is that "now" a typo?

  • Comment number 8.

    This is typical of the English media. A few good performances from young players and they start piling the pressure on them, i.e Hart. Surely at a World cup you need experience between the sticks to deal with the pressure etc. Can you see Hart organizing the defence, shouting at people such as Terry and Ferdinand? Stick with James, Green and co and go out at the last 16 as you usually do!

    p.s If Aaron Ramsey was English, he would be hailed as the new Zidane and a certainty for the World cup, ahead of passengers such as Beckham and Walcott, as would Collison. As he is Welsh he just gets a passing mention by commentators and journalists alike.

  • Comment number 9.

    He deserves a chance but it says more about the lack of talent in this vital position.

    I hope that James gets fit as this would seem to be our best option.

    Whats happened!

    #7 yes, typo. Should be no.

  • Comment number 10.

    #7: Behave.

    Given would walk into the sides at Stretford and Arsenal. Cech and Reina are comparable.

  • Comment number 11.

    Phil, can you ask your pals over at MOTD why Joe has not been renamed: 'Joe Hart, on loan from Manchester City'?

    When Ben Foster was on loan at Watford, I think we were reminded at every given opportunity where 'our Ben' was on loan from...

    Bitterness aside, there are comparisons to draw here. Foster was deemed the next great thing after a successful spell at Watford and a few good outings for Salford. He was pushed into the England team and things went south from there.....

    Joe is a good keeper, I hope he goes on loan again next season to get more experience. The England management should treat Joe as a good prospect but one who is still learning.

  • Comment number 12.

    Really disappointed again with Phil's views. Try to keep up to date and see as much of the premiership and football league as possible and really don't seem to see the same thing as Phil. On the evidence of last season, liverpool were always likely to struggle for a champions league league place this season never mind challenge for the league. And now questioning Shay given, one of the premiership's best and most consistent performers? Much prefer fordyce, dirs, brett on sporting matters.

    England has many talented goalkeepers, just one needs a run of games to gain confidence and don't see there being much difference in talent between any of them. Can't see david james being required to do as much in any international as he does in an average premiership match for portsmouth and if fit and in form should be in goal for you

  • Comment number 13.

    I felt for Hart when Given came to City. Given was a great choice though and has more than justified the few million spent on him.

    However Hart's recent quote for Birmingham for BBC I think tells us why he thought Given was brought in:
    "... one bad performance next week and I'll be another young kid who needs to be replaced by someone with more experience," he told BBC Sport.

    I hope we (City) entice him back as Given surely has a limited life and I'd love to see us with some more quality English players.

    A trip to South Africa would first and foremost be a good thing for the England squad, and I hope in the longer term for Man City.

  • Comment number 14.

    @ stephen
    where does he question given? If anything, he's praising him.

    as always, if you don't like it, don't read it!

  • Comment number 15.

    As A City and Joe Hart fan I would like to see him back at the club when Shay's form starts to go and would therefore like City to sell Joe on a 3 year loan , deal giving Birmingham some security while ensuring that we get him back for when we need him.If David James doesn't recover in time for WC , Joe would do a good job and has the experience of competition football from u21's run.

  • Comment number 16.

    I observed him play against Chelsea recently and I said to myself, that England can only win the World Cup with a good goalkeeper - and this guy is the chosen one !! Kudos to Phil for bringing this up.

  • Comment number 17.

    @ Sergio Lahaye, re-reading the article, it may be a typo but does seem to question Given as read.

    I'm a northern irish fan and we have always seemed to be blessed with decent goalkeeping resources but as well that we don't beat up on the keepers when they do make mistakes. Phil's article seemed to start out on the topic of english goalkeepers and there is an abundance of talent from the top to bottom of leagues but in the top competitions, such as in most sports, it generally pays to side with experience. There seems to be many english goalkeeping options available at present when compared to the skill/experience available to other home nations at present. A more meaningful observation would be why none of the home nations seem capable of producing fluid, instinctive playmakers in the mould of kaka, zidane, best, gascoigne etc.

    Also, just passing comment that I'd hope for more observation and insight from the BBC's chief football writer, especially compared to other BBC sports writers contributions and in relation to football especially, Tim Vickery's always knowledgeable, concise and interesting articles.

  • Comment number 18.

    i agree, hart and robinson look the part!
    rock on june!

  • Comment number 19.

    I think u have to take joe hart to the world cup. What are the options?
    In fact, i'd seriously consider starting him.
    A calculated risk it may be but if he can continue with his current fine form then england are in with a shot. James on ther other hand is almost guaranteed to make a couple of costly stuff ups.
    As for bringing him back to city until given's powers diminish, well you could be in for a long wait. Given is 33 which these days isn't that old for a keeper.

  • Comment number 20.

    I think it would be a good idea to take Hart to South Africa as a third choice goalkeeper because he is a goalie with really good prospects.

    I watched him play against Chelsea and he was very good its not surprising to see that his team has now gone twelve matches unbeaten.

    Given is doing a very good job and at Man City and at 33 has maybe five years more at the top and so loans are a good option for him at the moment esp. when he gets game time every week.

    Full time analysis

  • Comment number 21.

    England, 3rd favorites for the World Cup? Don't make me laugh.
    Apart from the Hype, the goalkeeping position is dire.
    Firstly. On Bergovic's performance at Pompey, I can't see David James replacing him,unless Bergovic is injured.
    Green, and Robertson are inconsistent not only at International level, also at club level.Foster,Championship standard
    As England can't , wont win the world cup, by all means take Hart for the experience

  • Comment number 22.

    First of all a happy new year to everybody.
    Congrats to you Mr McNulty for a good blog.
    I believe ther are two goalkeepers who have improved tremendously this season in the premier league:(1)Joe Hart.(2)Tomasz Kuszczak.
    I have watched Hart a couple of times this season and I have always been impressed with him,However his performance should not be taken out of the context of an overall great team performance by a very good Birmingham side.Alex McLeish has been able to build up the confidence level of all his players to the extent that the team believe they have a fair chance against anybody.
    I think Mr Cappello should take a chance on Joe Hart if he keeps up this performance going into the world cup,although my mind tells me he will stick to one of the older and more experienced keepers as his number one choice in South Africa.

  • Comment number 23.

    Don't forget, it is not just about South Africa 2010 but also about future tournaments. Joe Hart is a prospect for four World Cups and possibly the same number of European Championships. David James? Hmmmm.

  • Comment number 24.

    Take Hart to the S.Africa. But i dont think he is good enough to start in a event like the WC. It will be a good expiriance for him and help him devlop. but then again there is a big question over who should start. considering all options i think James is the best bet. He is expirianced and is a proven performer. James, if fit, can easily pull off class performances.
    As far as Hart is concerned i feel that leaving Man City will do him good. I don't see Given fading for at least 5 yrs. A keeper like Hart cant stay on the bench for that long. A move to club where he play regularly will help harness his talent and help his england prospects. He is talented no doubt but i wont risk him in the WC. He is a great prospect for the future.

  • Comment number 25.

    Joe's a talent, he's been this for many years. His tremendous reactions are second to none and he pulls off at least one fantastic save a match. BUT he has a problem commanding his box - he misjudges crosses and isn't always 100% certain of himself when coming off his goal line. Man City struggled in defence with him but I hope his shortcomings will with time be managed. I feel often his fantastic saves are required because he hasn't read teh ball coming into teh box, organising his defence or coming out and nipping the problem in the early stage. Watch the greats and see how they controlled their boxes - Zoff, Jennings, Shilton, Schmeichel. England have a problem if Joe is their best hope for now. Maybe the European Championship in 2 years and he could be the finished article.
    Stay on loan at Birmingham for the next two years and then oust Givens as Man City become a european powerhouse.

  • Comment number 26.

    I can only go on his performance against Chelsea, but in that match he was simply superb. If he is bringing that form to other matches also, then he must be a serious contender,especially when we have so few decent GK's to choose from.

    If we end up with David James as anything higher than England's No 3 keeper, then we know we have serious problems.

  • Comment number 27.

    I would agree with you that on current form he is more than good enough for a squad place but I get the impression that due to his age he will be up against it in terms of getting the jersey. Only a complete failr to stand up from the likes of Green and James would see Hart get the nod in my view.

    I do think there is a danger with the media hyre machine aswell though which has seen Wright, Kirkland, Foster, Carson etc all billed as being the next big thing only for them to disappoint on the big stage. Goalkeepers are a unique position insofar as your stock can rise and fall greatly based on just a couple of games as highlighted by HArt. At the end of the day though it is a position that experience and consistency over a great number of years count for alot which is why I think its probably just about come too soon for him even withstanding the current lack of a clear candidate for the jersey.

    On a seperate note? Isnt Almunia now eligible for England and expressed a willingness to play for them? I wouldnt consider him a clear pick for the jersey but surely England could use all the bolstering they can muster in that position as things are now?

  • Comment number 28.

    England lacks the stremgth in depth not just in goalkeeping but in other areas as well, and injuries and indiscipline will bear this out come the World Cup.

    In the Pompey v Arsenal game last Wednesday not one English player was in either starting line up, and I agree that if it had been Wilshere and not Ramsay who had turned in that performance the media would have been doing cartwheels.

    Also, why is it necssary everytime to mention the nationality of the manager of an England internationalist when he is a Scot, always implying that there is a conspiracy woking against England's chances in South Africa. As I recollect Busby and Shankley had a few key players in the '66 team and it did not merit a mention back then.

  • Comment number 29.

    I support Birmingham and watched Hart a number of times this season. Like other posts he is a brilliant shot stopper but he is not up to standard dealing with crosses. He has a problem getting the ball in the 6 yard box. If he goes to SA it will only be as 3rd choice.

  • Comment number 30.

    I agree with Mr McNulty, unfortunatily Capello won't gamble at this stage and thus we will go to South Africa with 3 out of form/dropped/injured for large parts of the season goalies. IMHO James and Foster shouldn't be on the plane and Green is 3rd choice behind Hart and Robinson (whose England form was never bad, just his Spurs form was).

  • Comment number 31.

    This is typical of the English media. A few good performances from young players and they start piling the pressure on them, i.e Hart. Surely at a World cup you need experience between the sticks to deal with the pressure etc. Can you see Hart organizing the defence, shouting at people such as Terry and Ferdinand? Stick with James, Green and co and go out at the last 16 as you usually do!

    p.s If Aaron Ramsey was English, he would be hailed as the new Zidane and a certainty for the World cup, ahead of passengers such as Beckham and Walcott, as would Collison. As he is Welsh he just gets a passing mention by commentators and journalists alike.


    explain what's so typical? its long been shown that hart has real potential. given regular games hes starting to show it. out of those likely to go he is the form keeper at the moment, and if he keeps it up he should go, the are still friendlies to come. what pressure? his own manager (who is scottish and not english) believes he has a good chance, and considering Alex Mcleish isnt one for hype, that shows how well he's coming along. and as for ramsey, actually the press was raving when he came along, and its widely known he's a wonderful tanlent in the making so im not sure what your point is there

  • Comment number 32.

    As a Shrewsbury fan who saw Joe come up through the youth team at the Meadow I think it's great that he'e getting the recognition he deserves. I think he should go to S Africa as back-up to James/Green or whoever is No. 1... and hopefully depending how he group matches go he may get an oppotunity during one of those games to prove he's international class. Again I hope once his loan at Brum ends that either he get's his chance at Man City (not easy with Given there) or he can get a transfer to a club that will play him as first choice keeper.

  • Comment number 33.

    I have a theory that if you are a team's no.1 while they are relegated, you cannot be a world class 'keeper. So if we look at this with england keepers:
    Robinson: releg. with Leeds
    James: releg. with West Ham
    Carson: WBA
    Kirkland: WBA
    Foster: Watford.

    Hart is the only premier league english goalkeeper who hasn't been relegated, so almost by default he should be england goalkeeper.

    Add to this his current form, and 2 years of pl experience, and he really should be England's no. 1.

  • Comment number 34.

    I personally would prefer Joe Hart to go at the moment before James, Foster, Robinson, Green.
    But is he going to still perform well for England? He can play an amazing and solid game for Birmingham but that may just be a streak of talent that comes to him from playing with a club.
    I still believe in saying that he should go to the World Cup and in 2 years time he'd be ready for the 2012 European Championship.
    Surely Joe must be on Fabio's list? He's got the right attitude, presence and talent that England need in goal.

    Come On England(:

  • Comment number 35.

    I've been a fan of Hart for a while. Where the other keepers seem to lack, he does look to have a solid all round goalkeeping game, as well as being an excellent shot stopper.

    He is surely the future, and therefore he should at least be in the squad at least, if only for the experience.

  • Comment number 36.

    I mention in the blog that I thought Joe Hart's lack of experience would count against him, but he has developed well at Birmingham and has shown real consistency. It is not a knee-jerk observation based on watching yesterday's performance - and why shouldn't we talk up England's young talent anyway?

    Another key factor in this is the current lack of quality among England's alternatives. Hart is playing as well as any English goalkeeper at the moment.

    My own conviction is that Fabio Capello wants David James as his World Cup goalkeeper - but how many question marks are there over him? Plenty I would suggest.

    If you were picking England's top three keepers today, Hart would be among them. I also keep receiving glowing references for Steve Harper at Newcastle.

    I do not see Championship league games, so let me know more. One thing is certain, England's goalkeeping slot for the World Cup is not being convincingly nailed down by anyone at the moment.

    And I cannot let the criticism of Stephen (post 12) pass without some comment seeing as he appears to have completely misinterpreted what I wrote.

    Can I take these quotes: "On the evidence of last season, liverpool were always likely to struggle for a champions league league place this season never mind challenge for the league. And now questioning Shay given, one of the premiership's best and most consistent performers?"

    How were Liverpool always likely to struggle for a Champions League place based on last season's evidence? When they finished second and pursued Manchester United all the way? Sorry - can't agree with that, although I have to accept their campaign has been a sorry tale so far.

    And please tell me where I have questioned Shay Given in any shape or form? I have actually said Hart may need to move away from Manchester City as a result of Given's continued outstanding form. Hardly criticism.

  • Comment number 37.

    im a shrewsbury town supporter and a really proud supporter at the moment. joe has been incredible form and even at town a few years ago u could see that special things were due to come from him. i would just like to say though a lot has to go to stuart pearce who paid 1.5m when he was in charge at city and gave joe the chance. then with pearce as under 21 manager and now cappellos right hand man joe will be the one for england in south africa.

  • Comment number 38.

    I'd take Kirkland. He may be injury prone, but surely he could stay fit for a month? And if he does get injured, we'll have two other keepers anyway so not a big deal.

    Kirkland, Hart and Green.

  • Comment number 39.

    Absolutely agree, Hart deserves a chance as 1st teamer. You have quite rightly pointed out that the GK position is a problem and I would be worried if James was still the first choice given his and his clubs current problems. His reactions are excellent and are some of the best I've seen this season. Rob Green I think would be really his only viable challenger (going on number of games played) and since West Ham are in a relegation battle it could prove interesting if Green can show his England credentials. He [Green] does show glimpses but sometimes it's coupled with some errors. Robinson has improved but still not [in my opinion] worthy of an England spot.

    I imagine if Hart continued his form throughout the season and into the WC someone would come in for him - would love for it to be Arsenal but that's so very unrealistic. Hart for England!

  • Comment number 40.

    33. At 10:12am on 03 Jan 2010, ChimpOlympics wrote:
    I have a theory that if you are a team's no.1 while they are relegated, you cannot be a world class 'keeper. So if we look at this with england keepers:
    Robinson: releg. with Leeds
    James: releg. with West Ham
    Carson: WBA
    Kirkland: WBA
    Foster: Watford.

    What is the reasoning behind the theory?

    I doubt if Casillas/Buffon etc were at the likes of Watford/Derby/WBA they would be able to keep them up. The rest of the squad is just too poor to cope. The closest Ive seen to a keeper almost single handidly keeping a side up would have been Given at Newcastle whereby if he had remained there they may well have beaten the drop but there are still countless games when he performed series of top class saves for it all to be in vain.

    Unfortunately with young keepers very often there only chance of getting first team premer league experience is to move out on loan to the teams that will inneviteably be in the relegation battle. The likes of James and Robinson have suffered from inconsistincy in the past (extremelly difficult not to over such a long career).

  • Comment number 41.

    Chris Kirkland is a good keeper, but sadly I just do not feel England can risk someone with his record of sudden injuries - not his fault at all and sad for him, but he has had problems with his back.

    Alex McLeish told me yesterday that he will try and extend Joe Hart's loan at the end of this season. New Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has already lavished praise on Shay Given, so unless he is injured or hits a run of unexpected poor form, Hart will need to get away from Eastlands again next season.

    I suspect Birmingham are also already aware that his current outstanding form will attract other suitors.

    I would take him to South Africa as a number two or three keeper - but my thinking on that is clouded by the fact that I do not see one absolutely stand-out contender to be England's World Cup keeper at present. There is no-one making Capello say: "Right - that't the first choice sorted I just need the back up." Worrying.

    Hart, however, looks to have grown in presence and maturity since leaving Eastlands for his loan spell at St Andrew's. As I said, I would give him a start against Egypt at Wembley in March.

    Do you think he could actually be the first choice in South Africa?

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm a Birmingham fan and as MGM (#25) pointed out it's only recently that Hart has started putting in great performances. He's on a great run of form now, but at the start of the season he was having problem's controlling his area and defenders and he had a bad habit of coming to meet a cross and then palming it into opposition attackers. By all means, take him to South Africa, but be aware that he's still young and probably hasn't got the mentality to consistently be in the starting eleven every match. Also Roger Johnson deserve some credit for our defensive record, hopefully he's on Capello's radar.

    Keep Right On- RJ for England!

  • Comment number 43.

    I've read countless blogs on England's chances in the upcoming world cup and I have to say that England really is dreaming. With no credible goalkeeper, no right back at all, only one fit and capable centre half (Terry) and no recognised striker (although Rooney is amazing he can't be relied on for goals) it seems that the old "Who's going to play on the left?" problem is the least of your concerns. People say this is England's best chance at a major finals for 40 years but that is complete nonsense. Could the current back 4 and goalkeeper get into the 98 team? Maybe Cole. Are the strikers better than Owen and Shearer circa 98? No. The midfield may be marginally better but still, in no way can England compete with Spain in any position.

  • Comment number 44.

    Why has noone suggested Almunia. Surely now that he is eligible he counts as the most consistently performing goalkeeper available for the England team.

    And dont start going on about him not being English because i could start with Eduardo for Croatia and end with 4 members of the England cricket team that gloriously won back the Ashes last summer. We werent bothered then so why should we now?

    Or is it "different" because its cricket?

  • Comment number 45.

    Steve Harper should also be given a shot. Best keeper in the Championship and a hearbeat behind Given at Newcastle. Even Robson started Harper in front of Given for periods. I can't remember Harper making a single mistake which as an Irishman, you can't even say about Shay.

    Hart is a very good keeper and should definitely go as #3.

  • Comment number 46.

    I'd take him to SA, based on form and appearances (which is what Capello picks from), Foster should be crossed off, no games, when plays, pretty poor. David James, if fit and ready, surely should be the number one.

    And what ever happened to Scott Carson? I wouldn't start Joe Hart, or same could happen to him as Scott Carson, thrown straight into the deep end, then drowned.

    P.S. Pepe Reina is easily replaceable!

  • Comment number 47.

    "Joe Hart left behind Manchester City's Abu Dhabi billions to seek first-team football and a change of fortune at Birmingham City. He is now on course to land the jackpot of a place in England's World Cup squad".


    I think that unnecessary and inaccurate starting paragraph has devalued a reasonable bit of good publicity for Joe.

    Joe Hart is a Manchester City player on loan to Birmingham, the phrase "Birmingham’s rising star" is also disingenuous, like I said he is a Man City player on loan.

    Would you write that Ben Foster left behind the Old Trafford Team of Millionaires for Watford or talk about Watfords rising star? I think not.

    That aside Joe did well at Man City but didnt command his box, he is a young lad learning his trade and still as some way to go.

    Goalies tend to mature later so Joe has time on his side but it also causes an issue because Shay Given could be number one choice at City for another four or five year.

    City are in a good financial position and it means we can afford to let Joe stay out on loan for a few years to get first team experience, on current form he is worth a place in the England squad but my view is that he probably isnt ready for the England number one jersey.

    Keep up the good work Joe and like most other City fans I hope one day you will become our long term number 1.

  • Comment number 48.

    I grew up in the same area as Joe, and went to school with him, and was lucky enough to play some football with him in our younger days. He is a great lad, very down to earth, and is a top quality keeper at such a young age. For me, there is no better keeper for the England No. 1 spot at South Africa. Watching MOTD after the game against Burnley I think it was, in an interview with Hart being asked about his world cup chances, he played it down saying basically just taking it one game at a time, and he is mature enough to realise that one bad game, a couple of mistakes, and he is just another young lad that needs to be replaced.

    He is in great form, and has been very consistent right through his Shrewsbury Town days right through to playing for Man City and Birmingham.

    I for one seriously hope he makes the number 1 spot for England at South Africa, as I certainly wouldn't trust James, Green or Carson.

    Good luck Joe!! Keep it up m8!!

  • Comment number 49.

    If his form continues then Hart is easily the best English goalkeeper. Why, then, should he not be first choice?

  • Comment number 50.

    I think that it really is a case of playing it by year. I admit that Hart has been in superb form, and the defensive form of Birmingham has been superb all season (credit and kudos due to Scott Dann and Roger Johnson also), but as has been pointed out all it takes is one mistake and suddenly everyone thinks he's terrible. It's unfair, but it's also realistic, so it would be best to let him get on with keeping clean sheets and earning points and deal with the call ups when it comes around.

    Ben Foster has talent, there's no doubt about that at all. But, like Hart, he's still young and goalkeepers don't usually hit their peak until their late 20s. The again, Scott Carson, Scott Flinders and Joe Lewis all had sudden attention and praise and now barely get a mention. It's a tricky business.

    As for Robinson, he's been our only consistent player this season and has clearly begun to enjoy a new lease of life since leaving Tottenham, where he was being barracked. Keep in mind that Friedel wasn't rated (and was unloved at Liverpool) before we picked him off the scrapheap and look where he is now. If he keeps it up, he should at least be in the squad.

    Also, Forest have been terrific this season and play exciting football. Credit to Billy Davies, who was somewhat unfairly criticised after Derby. Would love to see them back in the Premiership.

  • Comment number 51.

    Hi Phil, an interesting blog...

    I was about to make a complaint but I see you've already addressed my issue. That Issue being Steven Harper!

    I cannot understand why he is constantly overlooked by pundits, every reason I can think of to leave him out, there is an equally good reason to put him in. For example:

    1) He is only playing Championship football - Robert Green was only playing championship football when given his first cap.

    2) He is too old - He is 5 years younger than David James!

    3) He spent his whole career in Shay Given's shadow - as would most goalkeepers, Shay Given, as most have stated, is one of the best and most consistent goal keepers the Premiership has ever seen. The important thing is that when (rarely) called upon Steve Harper rose to the challenge impressively!

    4) He was part of a team that were relegated - This is true, and as JoeDavisRoach stated above, many fans think had Shay stayed, Newcastle would've stayed, but having done a bit of research, Steve Harper actually has a lower goals conceded per game ratio than Given - (27 in 18 games compared to 32 in 20 games or 1.5 compared to 1.6)

    Steve Harper is the man in form, he has kept 16 clean sheets in all competition this season AND that is with the same defence as Given had last season (minus the mecurial Habib Beye)!

    Yes I am biased because I am a Newcastle fan, yes he is playing against weaker opposition, but why shouldn't he be given an opportunity to play in a friendly, to play with a decent defence in front of him, to play for his country?

    Steve Harper - England's No.1!

  • Comment number 52.

    To Jake...Alex McLeish also made the point about how well Joe Hart responds to advice, even criticism. He said he is not too precious about it, doesn't take it personally and acts upon it. All signs of a great attitude.

    Note one or two worries from fans about how he commands his box, but I think he is improving rapidly. I spoke to one reporter who covers every Birmingham game and he says, based on what he has seen, Hart must go to the World Cup.

    And to Jesus Was A make your point about Steve Harper superbly. I just wonder if he is on Fabio Capello's radar. Maybe he should be going by what some people have posted on here this morning.

    Enjoying the debate as ever. Keep the views coming.

  • Comment number 53.

    #44 No one has suggested Almunia because he's not a very good keeper. Even Wenger isn't convinced.....

  • Comment number 54.

    Joe Hart is the most promising goalkeeper in England. I was able to see him (on TV) play against Chelsea and was really impressed. Taking the inconsistency of all our other keepers into account, it could do no harm to build Joe Hart to be our new number one, for this world cup.

  • Comment number 55.


    In response to your reply, your initial article read
    "thus presenting the youngster with a long-term problem with Given's powers showing now signs of diminishing"

    which you will agree is a slight on Given's ability and I later commented that it may have been a typo.

    On Liverpool, if you were watching the same matches that I did last season, you would have seen some very poor performances from very average fringe players and some outstanding performances from the 4-5 core members of the team that just about sustained the team's form. Once Alonso left without being adequately replaced, any loss of form or injury to the 3-4 remaining core members of the team was likely to have a drastic impact on results as seen this year.

    Sorry, but I read most of the BBC's sporting blogs each week and this one always comes across as quite weak compared to the others. Just my opinion of course but would hope for better from the chief football writer.

  • Comment number 56.

    Re Gary post 44:

    I'll keep it short and simple - Almunia is Spanish, not English. End of debate on why he shouldn't be called up.

  • Comment number 57.

    # redthemadsheep2001

    My point was that although i recognize Hart's good foorm of late, acknowledging it isn't a problem, but saying things like 'he should go to the world cup' is premature and puts pressure on him. If he continues in this form till the end of the season then by all means give him the chance, but playing against Nottingham Forrest in the F.A Cup 3rd round is a bit different to playing Brazil in a World Cup final.

  • Comment number 58.

    On current form there should be no reason why Hart cannot be our number 1. He is showing what a great keeper he is. Robert Green, Kirkland and James have all been inconsistent and plagued with injuries this season.

    Hart has more ability than these and is in better form. The only thing that goes against him is lack of experience at this level... but to counter that he has played at a number of large under 21 tournaments.

    Another keeper that is being overlooked is our former number 1. Paul Robinson. He has been very good for Blackburn, and i believe, should be taken to the world cup as backup to Heart.

    My 3 keepers would be: Hart, Robinson, James.

  • Comment number 59.

    is there anything worse than a fool who comments an article saying 1st comment like he's won or something? oh wait yeah a fool who comments an article saying 1st comment like he's won something when he is infact not 1st and is not only very annoying but very stupid also

  • Comment number 60.

    from post 43 (I think) but still, in no way can England compete with Spain in any position. Is that the Spain with a defence made up of liabilities Ramos, Captivilla (a defender who makes Johnson look like Maldini) and Puyol who lets be honest has never coped against higher tempo English teams. And then there their magical midfield with consists of a bunch of midgets who all play in exactly the same way and at the same half paced tempo. Pity we have such a negative and gutless manager otherwise them and the laughably overrated Brazil are there for the taking.

  • Comment number 61.

    Just to add to steve harpers Credentials and an intresting pub question:

    he's the only player to play in the top 5 divisions, the champions league, uefa cup, intertoto cup, Fa Cup Final and league cup

    Surely with that and quotes from the legend Sir Bobby

    "we are very lucky at Newcastle, because we have two world class shot stoppers"

    and that phil is when Steve harper was getting chose over Shay Given. Your best keeper of the decade!
    Do I need to say more?

  • Comment number 62.

    60. At 12:11pm on 03 Jan 2010, mike cass wrote:

    Yep its the same the same Spain that contains 2 world player of the year shortlisted nominees, are current champions of Europe, equaled the longest unbeaten streak of an international team and have a squad rich in talent.

    The same overrated Brazl that beat England recently and the same gutless manager who steered England to the World Cup unbeaten in the group.

    Your perception of football is warped to say the least.

    56. At 12:05pm on 03 Jan 2010, BognorRock wrote:

    Surely by that outlook then Capello should not be managing England. Almunia has British citizenship and is entitled to be considered. I dont think hes the outstanding choice but I would consider him in the same bracket as Green, James, Robinson etc.

  • Comment number 63.

    To stephen...yes I accept the initial typograph may have caused some confusion, so apologies if you feel I have unfairly criticised you.

    But there is no sense in the article that I am aiming any criticism at Given, the opposite in fact and if you read my "Team of the Noughties" article, you will have noticed I picked Given as goalkeeper.

    We'll just have to agree to disagree on Liverpool, although I saw nothing last season to suggest they would not at least be in the top four this season. I think their form has been a surprise to most people - and don't forget they may still make the top four. Rafael Benitez has guaranteed it, so they better had.

  • Comment number 64.

    b4 i start yes i am a newcastle fan so its a bit biased, but Jesus Was A Geordie talks sense evry time any says steve harper they say, too old, in givens shadow 4 13yrs and so on but the fact is right now u look at every othe english keepers record right now a u will see in a ratio of goals conceded per harper is by far the best in form right now, as for the old thing its already said by the time the world cup comes james will be 40! 5yrs older than harper if we go off that harper has this world cup and a euro left in him. as for in givens shadow thing i am sure harper has been here longer than given so who helped given become the keeper he is now it must of been harper, but look hes playin well yes every1 wants to hart and rest of the young1s get but this is a world cup not the egg cup we need people that are experinced playing the best and that arent goin to flap at the sight of a knockout stage against italy iv already seen young and old english keepers flap for england this year and thats all of them green, james, certainly foster so i say no harm in giving harper a shot we have 3 friendlys b4 the WC perfect opertunities, but like phil said he may not be on capellos rader i say if harper isnt on his rader if he aint lookin... capello will do no better than other managers wev always had keeper probs (after seaman retired) and if hes not goin to sort it itl be same old same old. Harper is a brillent keeper a desvers a chance at being englands no1 more than any1 else now hes done everything right for us even when he started he desrves reconishion for his work HARPER DESERVES TO BE ENGLANDS NO1 GOALKEEPER

  • Comment number 65.

    In the same fixture last season City lost 3-0 to Forest at home and Joe was at fault for the first 2 goals. He did not command his area and his communication skills are weak. However he will become a great when he has matured and ironed out these critical faults.
    He is a great lad and all Man City supporters want him back at the Club.
    A good article but giving Birmingham the credit for his development is a little compelling. He's been at City a few years now!

  • Comment number 66.

    Quick change of tack. Any Forest fans out there like to talk about their team? I thought they were excellent yesterday, playing attractive football under an excellent manager in Billy Davies.

    I must admit I would love to see Forest back in the Premier League. I'd like to know from Forest fans whether they think they can win promotion this season - and how would they acquit themselves if they did? Do they have the financial clout to make the investment needed to cope in the top tier?

    Look good yesterday though...Earnshaw's mad penalty apart!

  • Comment number 67.

    # redthemadsheep2001

    My point was that although i recognize Hart's good foorm of late, acknowledging it isn't a problem, but saying things like 'he should go to the world cup' is premature and puts pressure on him. If he continues in this form till the end of the season then by all means give him the chance, but playing against Nottingham Forrest in the F.A Cup 3rd round is a bit different to playing Brazil in a World Cup final.

    well firstly joe hart has been playing against better opposition than nottingham forest in the prem (absolutely no disrespect intended forest fans), for example he was superb against chelsea. no one is putting pressure on him, as people have pointed out he has a great attitude and with a manager like Mcleish he wont let it go to his head, if anything he will thrive on the chance to go the world cup.

    of course it depends on his form, that goes for virtually any player trying to make any squad, no one has said otherwise, but at the moment he's on form and he should go if he keeps it up. we're not saying that he should definately be the no.1 keeper, but he has a great chance as no 2 or 3.

  • Comment number 68.

    from post 43 (I think) but still, in no way can England compete with Spain in any position. Is that the Spain with a defence made up of liabilities Ramos, Captivilla (a defender who makes Johnson look like Maldini) and Puyol who lets be honest has never coped against higher tempo English teams. And then there their magical midfield with consists of a bunch of midgets who all play in exactly the same way and at the same half paced tempo. Pity we have such a negative and gutless manager otherwise them and the laughably overrated Brazil are there for the taking.


    you're either a WUM or utterly clueless about football

  • Comment number 69.

    66. At 12:36pm on 03 Jan 2010, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    I think Billy Davies sums up Forest best himself in his post match. For a Championship side they are more willing than most to play passing football but are a bit short on cutting edge up front. They create chances though and are comfortable playing the ball either down the flanks or through the middle.

    I think its too soon for them to go up though and if they do pull it off (via play offs I would guess) I could easily forsee another Derby scenario occuring. Not convinced they would have either the quality or the additional grit needed to stay up.

  • Comment number 70.

    "I am happy to close my eyes and ears to those who seem so keen to dance on the grave of this wonderful competition."
    When I were a lad, at the time of the Munich disaster, I was only vaguely aware that the League existed. The main focus of myself and all my friends, was the FA Cup and it was every schoolboy's dream to score the winning goal in the Cup Final.
    Of course then there was only one "Cup Final".
    Now the emphasis is on getting into Europe, in particular into the Champions' League because that is where the big money is.
    In my opinion the Champions' League has had a double effect. By giving the top four clubs the opportunity to compete, it has reduced their interest in doing well in the FA Cup so that it is now regarded as a consolation prize. Witness Liverpool's renewed interest in it this season.
    When only one club could qualify for the European Cup, none of the top teams could dare to treat the FA Cup with disdain. Even a runaway leader would want to "do the double".
    The Champions' League has also taken away the glamour of a competition solely between the Champions of the respective countries.
    Again it's all about the money.

  • Comment number 71.

    I think it was Henry Winter in the Telegraph two seasons ago who described the then Hart as England's current best keeper. As a City fan I think, only just, that an in form James would be better this year at the WC. But from then on, the reigns should be handed to Hart. As for the competitors for the position: Green, Robinson, Foster, Carson, they all have one thing in common: that "rabbit caught in the headlights" look when things go wrong. They all appear too fragile. While Hart, to date, has a highly reassuring cockiness.

    I must also take issue with the comment: "Shay Given's expensive arrival". £5 million for a top keeper is, I feel, a bit of a bargain.

  • Comment number 72.

    I think it would be a safer bet to take Joe Hart to SA2010 than a player who is not in the first team for his club (Ben Foster) or a player who has also proven unreliable in the past at the highest level (Paul Robinson) even though he is playing well for his club. Three 'keepers will be taken and my three would be: James (if fit), Hart and Green. If James is not fit, the Green as number 1 with Robinson as third choice.

  • Comment number 73.


    Thanks for clarifying and apologies for digressing.

    On the keeper front, there are many excellent names listed, any one of whom is likely to do a great job and the England side is lucky to have so many good options available. Each has their particular strength and weaknesses with no one outstanding candidate and, given level form and fitness, experience could be key so James would be my pick.

  • Comment number 74.

    As a rugby fan first and football fan 2nd, although I often read a lot of the football blogs its not very often I comment on them, but I feel that phil has made a very formidable case for Joe Hart's inclusion for Englands 2010 WC squad.

    However everyone saying he should be the 1st choice keeper is completely baffling. Yes he is talented and yes he will definately be a future england number 1, but at the moment he is still developing and won't reach his peak untill maybe he's 25 or 26. Then we will have a world class keeper who will be around for a decade and consistently provide results.

    However, until then we should look at the bigger picture, this is probably the last chance england's "Golden Generation" will have to win the world cup. Therefore it has to be David James between the sticks with Hart and 1 other from Green, Robinson, Harper and Manuel Almunia, who for some reason has been overlooked by both spain and england.

    If I was capello I'd Take James, Almunia and Hart. Almunia is a quality keeper who can take over after James retires from internationals, which I suspect will be after 2010. Almunia can then fill the position for 2 or 3 years when Hart will be world class and ascend as rightful heir to the throne.

    You only have to look at other sports to realise that pinning all your hopes on youngsters is very dabgerous - Rugby did it with Danny Cipriani and Cricket did it with Ravi Bopara, both of whom are now in international wilderness, to see that Hart still needs time to mature. Whilst he is a great keeper, he's not the finished article, only about 95% and unfortunately its that last 5% that will take the longest to develop as they are the true signs of a world class keeper like Shilton, Buffon and Schmeichel displayed for years

  • Comment number 75.

    Just on Arsenal's Manuel Almunia. I actually do not think he is good enough to be England's keeper - indeed I am not convinced about him as Arsenal's first choice. It is also a redundant argument because Fabio Capello has made it clear he will not be picking him.

  • Comment number 76.

    As a Cardiff City fan I've kept an keen eye on Roger Johnson and he's contributed fantastically (along with Scott Dann) to Birmingham's stern defence, as other people have mentioned. However, Hart still deserves credit and in my opinion a seat on the plane.

    Also, don't forget Joe Hart's penalty taking, remember in the Under 21's European Championship (and 13 for Penalty taking on FM10).

    Surely that will be a help for England. :)

  • Comment number 77.

    #74 true signs of a world class keeper like Shilton, Buffon and Schmeichel displayed for years.
    Buffon I'll grant you but Shilton and Schmeichel must be the two most overrated players of all time.
    Clemence was a better keeper than Shilton and Schmeichel was a clown.
    Neville Southall and Pat Jennings were two of the best goalkeepers of all time.
    If they'd been English they'd've had the recognition they deserved.

  • Comment number 78.

    redthemadsheep2001 and JoeDavisRoach jesus you guys are obnoxious. I mean just becasue Spain have played some pretty and effective football in the last 2 years they are hardly the unbeatable force that you seem to hope they are. I can not think of a top spainish midfielder who can tackle or head the ball, their defence and midfield lacks any kind of pace. Also Chelsea showed how the suspectable the very slow one dimensional Spainish game is to the higher tempo English style.
    Also Brazil (you are joking) a midfield of Melo and Diego who have been total flops at Juve this season, Robinho (lol) Ramaiz (useless), Baptista and Elano who still sometimes make the team and they really are useless. They only really have Kaka who is out of form and a very good defence. Hardly unbeatable are they? and they beat our B team in a friendly and we dont try in friendlies anyhow.
    Also Capello is gutless which is why we all know he wont play Joe Hart. He is ultra cautious and dislikes any kind of flair(ie dropping Gullit), which maybe why his record in the European cup is so bad.

  • Comment number 79.

    gwilli11...Joe Hart's penalty taking! Now there's an added bonus for Fabio Capello.

  • Comment number 80.

    Shilton and Schmeichel over-rated? LOL at some comments on here.

  • Comment number 81.

    78. At 1:25pm on 03 Jan 2010, mike cass wrote:

    Let me see - I think your second line sums up Spain. Pretty and effective. As in they are successful. They are not unbeatable but they are a superior side to England and would have to be considered as decent favourites over them.

    Just because Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas are relatively weak in the air is hardly a glaring weakness in a team that keeps the ball on the ground and plays passing football. The flip side of that argument is show me a player in the English side who can pass the ball as well as Iniesta and Xavi.

    Chelsea are probably the only team last year that had a system that caused Barcelona to struggle but had to resort to surrendering virtually total possesion and playing a completely negative style of football to try and scrape a hit and run win. MAn Utd were comprehensively outplayed in the final by even Fergusons own admission. Your lack of appreciation for the quality (and winning) football that Spain and Barcelona produce is staggering.

    Barcelona won 5 trophies in 2009 with "midgets who cant head the ball" so I dont think they are too concerned.

  • Comment number 82.

    I've really liked Hart since he started playing regularly at City and I think he deserves a chance for England. He's been brilliant for Birmingham and, with the No.1 shirt up for grabs, who's to say he won't be starting in South Africa.

  • Comment number 83.

    mike cass wrote:

    you completely dismiss arguably the best team in the world as one dimensional midgets, call your national manager gutless, and we're obnoxious? get a grip, no one is saying they're unbeatable, but they are a better side than england at the moment. hopefully we'll be able to rectify that in the world cup. but nevertheless they have been beaten just once in 36 games, and are european champions. not bad for one dimensional midgets

  • Comment number 84.

    I appreciate the quality of Barca and Spain's football but there is a inherit weakness to the type of players they have and the style they play.
    Which yourself and many a pundit like to overlook they lack strength, they dont get crosses in the box, the gap between defence and midfield is too big. In fact they are just like Arsenal and look how many prizes they have won in recent years. Barca 5 thropies dont mean much their Euro Cup doesnt count after the semi final disgrace and the domestic and I guess silly world titles are worthless.Chelsea ripped Barca apart half a dozen just because a team is happy to be patient and watch Barca/Spain pass the ball harmless around isnt negative its intelligent.
    Spain have Iniesta, Xavi, Fab and Silva we have Gerrard Lamps Cole Lennon so we have much more variety, strength, speed in our midfield. So why on earth you think it so impossible to beat Spain is baffling.
    And Fergy played a joke of a formation for some reason against Barca, he tried to play the continental way in fact not the English way, hence he got bashed.

  • Comment number 85.

    Totally agree, Hart deserves his chance. I don't trust James at all and his concentration always comes in to question, Rob Green again makes one to many mistakes - Hart deserves a crack at being England's number one.

  • Comment number 86.

    Until recently, I didnt have a great opinion of Joe Hart. But, his save from Faye's header was absolutely stunning. Yet his all-round game hasnt been improved as well as his shot-stopping skills.

    But please dont mention Robert Green and Paul Robinson as good goalkeepers. Green, especially, is an awful awful keeper.

  • Comment number 87.

    i know you guys are talking about England goalkeeper's issue, but what about michael owen. i am watching manchester united v leeds united and manchester is behind by a goal. why cant owen start a match like that? i think ferguson will cost michael owen the world cup's participation. any comment?

  • Comment number 88.


    That was some game! I seem to remember a certain Steven Taylor taking and scoring a penalty after a short 'hop up' (after being injured in the final minutes but not substituted, he was required to take a penalty despite not being able to walk) Smashed into the corner, Fantastic scenes!

  • Comment number 89.

    84. At 2:15pm on 03 Jan 2010, mike cass wrote:

    Are you actually serious? How many excuses are you going to fit into a paragraph? A clean sweep of trophies means nothing? They won virtually EVERY competition they entered. As in they CANT really acheive much more.

    Chelsea were a far bigger joke than Barcelona over the two legs. Barcelona must have dominated about 70% possesion in the Nou Camp. And your comparison to Arsenal is ridiculous. Arsenal havent won much lately - Barcelona have won the Champions League twice in recent years, the Spanish Leage twice etc etc. When you control the tempo and possession completely in a game you dont need guys that can win the ball in the air every time.

    I will grant you that theyre team is not very physical (the Spanish players at least) or particularly good in the air but your making it sound like this team has fluked numerous competions. Barcelona dominated Europe last year playing top quality football, Spain won the European Championships (England didnt even qualify) - Its not a big coincidence, Spanish football is just extremelly strong at the moment.

  • Comment number 90.

    i agree with mike cass(#89). Barca were fantastic last season. but i do feel that they were a touch lucky in the champs league semis against chelsea. I think the ref won it for them. Other that that blip, they were simply superb.

  • Comment number 91.

    sry there. i menti agree with JoeDavisRoach.

  • Comment number 92.

    Thanks for your kind comments about Forest Phil. We're really pleased with the way things are going, even those of us who did not want King Billy here, and so is he. It sounds presumptuous to say so but many of us still think an automatic place is possible and even with our reservations about the Premiership we would still like to be back there.

    I know Billy is damping down the anticipation in public but in reality he is still out for promotion this season and having gained that, it should not be beyond our powers, with the Chairman's support to retain that place.

    I see that some Geordies are building up Steve Harper's reputation. In fact, in all competitions this season Forest have only conceded one more goal than Newcastle and have played one more match. In addition, Newcastle's home form is responsible for the low number of goals conceded and by definition all international fixtures are away games. Therefore if anyone from the Championship deserves to be the England goalkeeper it would be Lee Camp.

    Thanks to all of the team for their efforts, I just hope it all pays off for us at the end of the season.

    Hopefully it will soon be generally realised that Billy Davies is very much an underrated manager.

  • Comment number 93.

    Football is about goal not possession and it was a disgrace that the referee decided to put Barca through in that game. The domestic and cup titles in Spain is only a competition between 2 teams and real where fairly disorganised last season. World cup cup and the game against the UEFA winners are completely worthless as we all know. The reason Arsenal have won zilch is because they always get beaten by English teams and I suspect Barca who have won zilch if they competed with English team on a level playing field.
    I think Italy, Holland, Argentina or England will all be able to exploit the weakness of the Spainish and the fact they can only play at a very slow tempo, which is also much easier in hot climates which hopefully SA wont be.

  • Comment number 94.

    Comming back to the enland's GK isssue, i dont understand why england has not produced a world class stopper in recent years. if u look at countries like spain and brazil and germany, there is tough competition for the GK spot. for eg: Casillas, reina, valdes, palop are all wonderful world class keepers. Even if Casillas is un available, reina can come in and produce a superb performance. you cant really say that for england. England has the best league in the world. but it has not been able to churn out a great stopper. you just cant compare James or Green or Robinson to a Casillas, Buffon or Julio Cesar.

  • Comment number 95.

    hey Mike, i agree football is abt goals. So spain has one of the best attacking lineups today. I think they stand a good chance of making it atleast to the semis in SA.
    i dont think spanish league is a two horse race. there was stiff competition from villarreal and athletico and sevilla. Barca had to perform well through out last season. Come on man you cant win that many tropies in a seson by fluke

  • Comment number 96.

    To le fantome de la moustache...agree Billy Davies is very under-rated. Did a great job with Preston, took Derby into the Premier League and could now do the same with Forest. Will he have money to spend to a) continue the challenge and b) cement Forest's place in the Premier League if they get there?

    Enjoyed first visit to the City Ground in a while. A Premier League club-in-waiting.

  • Comment number 97.

    agreed on the hart part (ha, didn't mean for it to come out that way) but surely in "strengthening" you mean backup. though i often think the keepers too young and needs more time/experience line a bunch of phooey. however, it would take a few more performances of the highest level for me to think hart is on the level of alumnia, cech, or van de sar...

  • Comment number 98.

    Does anyone know what has happened to Ben Foster? As I see it he has fallen completely from favour at Old Trafford - so how can Capello even consider him for his England squad? This is where Hart comes in. I should also add I have been distinctly underwhelmed when I have watched Foster this season.

  • Comment number 99.

    93. At 3:00pm on 03 Jan 2010, mike cass wrote:

    Football is about goal not possession and it was a disgrace that the referee decided to put Barca through in that game. The domestic and cup titles in Spain is only a competition between 2 teams and real where fairly disorganised last season. World cup cup and the game against the UEFA winners are completely worthless as we all know. The reason Arsenal have won zilch is because they always get beaten by English teams and I suspect Barca who have won zilch if they competed with English team on a level playing field.
    I think Italy, Holland, Argentina or England will all be able to exploit the weakness of the Spainish and the fact they can only play at a very slow tempo, which is also much easier in hot climates which hopefully SA wont be.


    This is just horrifically ignorant. To even say a cup is only a contest between two teams displays such a staggering lack of basic knowledge on how football works I'm curious as to whether we're talking about the right size football. Circular rather than oval right?

    Fair enough Real Madrid were sub-standard last year. We're still talking about a side that finished with a goal difference of +70 in a league which is, overall, as in all 20 teams, more competitive than the Premier League. While it is quite true that Chelsea outplayed Barcelona at Stamford Bridge it's absurd to expect a team to be the comprehensively better side in every game they play against world-class opposition. Barca were the better side in the Nou Camp by far and were unlucky not to go to England with a lead. They then totally outplayed Manchester United in the final, which you're just going to write off as Utd playing in a continental fashion? Back in reality with the rest of us Utd lost because their midfield was nowhere near good enough to live with Barcelona's ability to hold the ball (this is where Chelsea almost succeeded, because their midfielders were good enough to disrupt Barca when they actually tried to play football).

    I don't really know what you want from Barcelona in order to prove they're a better outfit than any of the English Big Four (and realistically I'm assuming you're narrowing this down to just Chelsea as maintaining that any of the other 3 are better is just laughable). If the situation was reversed and someone tried to put forward that Barcelona were the better side than Man Utd after they got beaten in the final and Utd won every trophy they could they'd be laughed out of any reasonable football conversation.

    As for Arsenal the reason they don't do as well as Chelsea and Man Utd is because they lack the finances of these clubs. Let's not pretend a team which, playing in a similar style since Wenger took over, has won 2 doubles and go an entire league season unbeaten is unable to cope due to the natural inferiority of their style of football. Yes they lack some "bite in midfield" and their defence is undoubtedly weaker than Chelsea's but that's primarily due to the fact that they've been hugely outspent. As for always being beaten by English teams are you actually trying to back up your point that Arsenal don't win the English league because they don't get as many points versus English teams as other teams do? Because if so I've got a message for you from the land of circular reasoning and they'd like their gimmick back. If you're trying to claim they never beat the Big Four last season Arsenal's league record against the Big Four was 2 wins, 2 losses and 2 draws. You could point to the Champions League semi-final if you wanted to but considering you've already criticised Man United for their continental style it'd be fairly hypocritical to praise them for a game in which utilising that style worked so well for them.

    As for Spain god alone only knows who you've been watching for the last 3 years. It probably wasn't the same side who beat England twice in that time period and won the European Championship, with 9 players on the UEFA team of the tournament and winning every game for the first time since the tournament expanded to 6 matches, while setting world records in undefeated and winning games in a row. Again one has to wonder what you actually want them to do before you accept that they're better than England. If we reversed the situations (like I suggested above for Barcelona) and someone proposed that Spain were a better side than England, despite England accomplishing everything I listed above, they would, again, be laughed out of any reasonable football discussion. For the record, I don't think South Africa is that much colder than Austria. For your sake I can only pray there's a snowstorm in every game.

  • Comment number 100.

    i agree. i dont think Foster is going to SA. i think Capello will pick James and Green for sure. Will Hart be no.3??? Or will he pick tried and tested but irreliable Robinson??? i think if Hart keeps going well and stays injury free, he is goin to SA.


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