Brum boss hails Hart progress
Birmingham manager Alex McLeish believes keeper Joe Hart is doing
his England World Cup chances no harm with his “terrific” form this
Hart joined Birmingham on loan from Manchester City in the
summer and after a few early mistakes has played an integral role
in his side’s current 10-match unbeaten run.
The former Shrewsbury youngster was a worthy man of the match
in Boxing Day’s goalless draw at home to league leaders Chelsea and
Scot McLeish believes the stopper is well worth consideration for
the England number one jersey.
Asked whether his first target in the January transfer window
is the permanent signature of Hart, McLeish said: “If I could and
if it was a good deal, then yes.
“I think Joe has come on a ton. We started the season having
spoken about one or two things and he’s improved out of sight and
I’m pleased for him. He’s a conscientious big guy and his own worst
“He studies everything and takes everything on the chin from
the goalkeeping coach Dave Watson to try to improve.
“He’s a guy who improves and wants to get better and better
and his form has been terrific.
“I know the England coaches think a lot of him, and I think
they will think even more of him now with his Birmingham
Hart should be fit for Monday’s clash at Stoke despite
suffering a head injury against Chelsea following a challenge with
“It was a ball which was there to be won and the two were
coming at boot level,” said McLeish. “It is tough for goalies
because they have got to dive at players’ feet sometimes and you’ve
got the added danger of studs hitting your head.
“Look what happened to big Petr Cech a couple of years ago.
Joe is brave, he took charge of the situation. He’ll be sore for a
couple of days but he’ll be fine.”
Birmingham’s revered defence is built around centre-half
pairing Roger Johnson and Scott Dann as much as Hart, and McLeish
is similarly delighted with his ‘old school’ duo.
“Dann and Johnson in particular just love heading balls and
making tackles, they are real throwbacks,” he said. “That was part
of the reason I bought them and I did some diligence on them.
Speaking to people who had worked with them, coaches whom I trust
in the game, and getting homework done like that is very
“I knew when I spoke to certain people about Scott and Roger
that I had to go for them.”
While Premier League leaders Chelsea enjoyed the better
chances at St Andrew’s it was Birmingham who had the ball in the
net in the first half, Christian Benitez poking it over the line
and apparently being played onside by an injured Drogba only to see
the flag raised against him.
McLeish was philosophical about the decision afterwards and
keen to turn his attention to the trip to the Britannia Stadium.
The City boss will give a fitness tests to midfielders
Sebastian Larsson and Lee Bowyer after they suffered knocks while
defenders Johnson and Liam Ridgewell seemed to suffer no
ill-effects after returning against Carlo Ancelotti’s side.