Steven Gerrard has thrown his full support behind under-fire goalkeeper Joe Hart ahead of England’s two crucial World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland.
Skipper Gerrard concedes Hart is not in the best of form right now, after a string of high-profile errors, but insists there is no English goalkeeper he would rather have between the sticks.
Per Graeme Bailey of Sky Sports, Gerrard said:
Being in form, being out of form—it happens but Joe has set such high standards and put in world-class performances that people expect that all the time which is impossible.
At the moment he is going through a bit of a tough time, but he has got the character and ability to play his way through it, for me when I have Joe Hart behind me I feel safe.
I feel good and for me I just want to echo what the manager said and back him and I have no doubt Joe Hart is a top keeper and I hope he is behind me for the next two games.
The sight of Hart burying his face in turf has been all too regular this season.
He was weak under aerial bombardment at Cardiff and then misjudged a rush from his line at Aston Villa. Both times Manchester City lost.
Bayern Munich twice embarrassed England’s No. 1, when Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben beat Hart at his near post, and the keeper’s latest outing saw him beaten by a soft Romelu Lukaku effort.
Gerrard will not be swayed by the 26-year-old’s form, though, despite the blossoming career of Celtic shot-stopper Fraser Forster.
Forster caught the eye in the Bhoys’ recent 1-0 defeat to Barcelona, making a series of impressive saves to deny Neymar and Co.
However, the warning to England boss Roy Hodgson comes in the shape of Scott Carson, who was thrown in at the deep end by Steve McClaren six years ago.
Carson, introduced for the faltering Paul Robinson, committed a memorable Wembley howler against Croatia as England failed to reach Euro 2008.
Hart’s form is such that, if England were in the middle of their qualifying campaign—facing an opponent like Moldova—Forster’s introduction would make sense.
For too long Hart has looked a shaky option for City, where his place has even been called into question under boss Manuel Pellegrini.
However, too much pressure would be heaped on the inexperienced shoulders of Forster if he were to be thrown in for the two games that decide England’s World Cup fate.
Gerrard is hoping, regardless of the keeper situation, England have enough firepower to overcome Montenegro and Poland, insisting Liverpool forward Daniel Sturridge is ready to become one of Europe’s top forwards.
Speaking to Sky Sports News TV channel, Gerrard said:
Having worked with him on a daily basis for my club, I know how good he is. I can understand why everyone is frustrated he hasn’t had a run of games in an England shirt.
But for me he’s a top player. He’s even better than I thought. I’d seen signs of potential at Manchester City and Chelsea … the stage is set for him to produce for a long time at this level and I’m sure he’s going to put in many top performers and score tons of goals because that’s how good he is.
Sturridge is expected to start alongside Wayne Rooney in a 4-4-2 formation, which will ultimately act as a double-edged sword for Hodgson.
The England boss will be slammed if he doesn’t start the duo and results don't go according to plan. However, on the flip side, if he does start the pair and England still fail, Hodgson will be labelled “tactically naive” for employing the 4-4-2 setup.