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Birmingham keeper Joe Hart gets Fabio Capello backing

Birmingham keeper Joe Hart
Hart pulls off another stunning save in a Birmingham shirt this season

England boss Fabio Capello has paid Birmingham goalkeeper Joe Hart a huge compliment with the World Cup in South Africa only four months away.

With England's number one spot still up for grabs, the 22-year-old, on loan from Manchester City, has helped the Blues climb to eighth in the table.

"Hart is having a fantastic season," said Capello. "He is in good form now.

"Before he made mistakes but he makes fewer now because he plays regularly and has more confidence."

England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce will be delighted with the progress being made by the keeper he signed as Manchester City boss from Shrewsbury in 2006.

Hart, who will play in Birmingham's West Midlands derby against Wolves on Sunday, became the first-choice keeper at Eastlands but was pushed aside following the arrival of Shay Given from Newcastle United.


However, after moving to Birmingham in July 2009, he has produced a string of outstanding performances leading his manager Alex McLeish to talk up his England credentials.

The Scot said in January: "He's come on in leaps and bounds. When Capello looks at all of his prospective players he'll make sure they've got all the ingredients and Joe shows all those ingredients at the moment."

It now seems Capello and his trusted lieutenant in the England set-up, Franco Baldini, are also taking note of Hart's rising stock.

"Franco went to see him and he has seen a great improvement," Capello added.

Hart's position has been aided by recent injuries to Portsmouth's David James, along with the shaky form of West Ham's Robert Green and the lack of games for Manchester United's Ben Foster.

Having started the last two England games, Foster has had a frustrating few months at Old Trafford, having been pushed to number three in the pecking order behind Edwin van der Sar and Tomasz Kuszczak.

"It is very difficult for Foster because he is not playing," said Capello.

Hart has picked up one England cap, making his his debut in the 3-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in June 2008.

He has been included in a number of Capello's squads but has not featured in any of England's World Cup qualifiers or friendly matches since playing in the friendly in Port of Spain.

Capello also paid tribute to Aston Villa midfielder James Milner who he said had "improved more than any other player in the squad".

Milner was one of the players to emerge with credit from England's last game when they were beaten 1-0 by Brazil in Qatar last November. And his form has been a telling part of Villa reaching the Carling Cup final.

"James Milner is a fantastic player," said Capello. "I saw Martin O'Neill in Marbella during pre-season and we spoke about Downing and I asked about Milner.

"He has improved more than any other player in the squad. He is intelligent on the pitch. He passes the ball well. He creates goals and scores himself.

"He is a lot like Frank Lampard, younger, but with great energy."

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see also
Birmingham 2-1 Wolves
07 Feb 10 |  Premier League
Capello strips Terry of captaincy
05 Feb 10 |  Football
McLeish tips Hart for World Cup
13 Jan 10 |  Birmingham
England face Wales in Euro group
07 Feb 10 |  Football
Birmingham 1-0 Nottm Forest
12 Jan 10 |  FA Cup
Birmingham 1-1 Man Utd
09 Jan 10 |  Premier League
Kiely sees England keeper problem
30 Dec 09 |  Football
Hart backed for England Cup spot
29 Dec 09 |  Birmingham

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