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Page last updated at 13:04 GMT, Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Alex McLeish backs Joe Hart for England World Cup place

Joe Hart celebrates Birmingham's win over Stoke
Hart has been a key figure in Birmingham's unbeaten 11-match run

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish believes goalkeeper Joe Hart is in contention to make England's 2010 World Cup squad.

The 22-year-old, on a season-long loan deal from Manchester City, has kept eight clean sheets to help catapult Blues to seventh in the Premier League.

And with England manager Fabio Capello uncertain about his first-choice keeper for South Africa, McLeish believes Hart will be among the leading candidates.

"I know that Fabio Capello and his staff like him," said McLeish.

"He already has an edge and his recent performances have certainly shown he can be a candidate.

"His form has been brilliant and let's face it, he is looking a big, powerful bloke between those sticks right now.

"He has improved since he came to us. He probably had it there anyway but we have probably brought out the potential.

"Joe has as good a chance as anybody else to be in the England squad."

Birmingham extended their unbeaten run to 11 matches following a 1-0 victory at Stoke on Monday, with Hart producing two outstanding saves to deny Matthew Etherington and Abdoulaye Faye.

ben90bcfc_Roger for Knighthood!

However, the former Shrewsbury Town keeper distanced himself from speculation about a place for South Africa next year.

"You can only take it with a pinch of salt - 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.

"If I do well then it will push me forward. I try not to think about it - if it comes, then great."

Hart has one England cap to his name, having made his debut in the 3-0 victory 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 qualification or friendly matches since the friendly in Port-of-Spain.

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see also
'Superhuman' Blues thrill McLeish
23 Dec 09 |  Birmingham
Everton 1-1 Birmingham
20 Dec 09 |  Premier League
Birmingham form delights McLeish
16 Dec 09 |  Birmingham
Blues must stay grounded - Hart
08 Dec 09 |  Birmingham

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