Hart relishing Champions League

Hart is in line to face Switzerland at Wembley on Saturday, but he
will not be backed up by Ben Foster. The Birmingham number one has
decided to take a sabbatical to concentrate on his club career,
having decided trying to oust 24-year-old Hart is not worth the
effort. Paul Robinson has also retired and Robert Green was left
out of Fabio Capello’s current squad amid doubts over his
commitment to the national team, only to be called back when it was
established that Fulham’s David Stockdale was due to get married.
Hart wanted to make it plain he was offering no opinion on the
reasons for, or the wisdom of, Foster’s decision. However, he could
not see himself abandoning England. “I can’t envisage wanting to
take a break,” he said. “Who knows what is in the future? Other
people make decisions based on personal reasons. I can only
concentrate on myself and being available for these kind of trips.
“Right now I am really happy to be here and trying to get that
number one spot.” Mind you, if Hart cannot be happy at present, no
one can. He has pushed Shay Given out of the first-team picture at
Manchester City, to the extent the Irishman needs a move to try to
salvage his career. Hart was one of the Blues’ outstanding
performers in a campaign in which they secured automatic Champions
League qualification and won the FA Cup. Never short of self-belief
to start with, it has provided the former Shrewsbury man with
another confidence boost, in addition to offering an opportunity to
perform at an even higher level. “What has happened at Manchester
City has given me a lot of confidence,” he said. “We have achieved
some fantastic things this season. We know what a tough task it
will be to follow that. “But the thing is, we could have achieved
more, which just makes it more exciting for next season.” Having,
for long periods, assumed they were heading for a place in the
Champions League qualifiers at best, it came as a very pleasant
surprise to squeeze Arsenal out of third spot to secure a direct
route into the last 32. City’s seeding means Barcelona, Real Madrid
and Inter Milan are among those who lie in wait. And Hart is
relishing the test. “I can’t wait to find out how much the
Champions League will improve me,” he said. “Getting it nailed on
as well, rather than going into the qualifiers, is great. “We can
really prepare for it properly now. “It will be a big test for us.
It really is big boys’ football.” Before Hart can enjoy his summer,
there is one more test to come. It does feel like Switzerland is
the add-on game that has totally slipped under the radar. However,
failure to win at Wembley would put England’s hopes of reaching
Euro 2012 next summer in jeopardy. A capacity 90,000 crowd will be
screaming Capello’s men on, demanding it does not happen. Hart is
unfazed at the prospect. “England are expected to win every game,”
he smiled. “If we were playing a team with 500 people in it, we
would still be expected to win at Wembley. Nothing changes there.”
The hosts are overwhelming favourites to come out in top. When they
defeated Switzerland in Basle last September, Ottmar Hitzfeld’s
World Cup qualifiers had not just been struck by the retirements of
two major stars in Alexander Frei and Marco Streller. Six points
adrift of England and joint leaders Montenegro, the Swiss have
little chance of securing a passage to next year’s finals in Poland
and Ukraine. Nevertheless, Hart is wary. “I don’t know if beating
them earlier in the season gives us a psychological edge,” he said.
“We know full well when teams come to Wembley it is a huge day for
them, no matter what. “It is a great occasion in a great stadium
and they are playing against a good team. “They will be doing
everything they can. We have to be ready for them.”