Hart not best in world yet, says ‘66 hero Banks

ENGLAND’S only World Cup winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks believes Joe Hart is not yet the world’s finest and has conceded that the lack of a genuine back up to him is a sincere concern.

Since succeeding David James as England’s first-choice goalkeeper following the disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign, Hart has developed to the previously unpredictable level of a world-class individual and one of the national team’s most important players. The recent attention bestowed upon him is a product of both his consistently exceptional form and his public outburst of distress when club side Manchester City conceded two late goals in a 3-2 defeat away to Real Madrid, and Banks, as qualified a judge as any, is among those that believe his growing reputation to be justified.

“Hart’s definitely a terrific goalkeeper. For his age, he’s doing tremendously well, and he can even get better with experience. I’m looking for him to be the [world’s] best goalkeeper,” Banks told City A.M. at the launch of The Football Pools 90th Season campaign.

“I don’t think he’s there just yet, he’s still got a bit of time, and as the years go on you become better with experience. The Spanish goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, [is the best]. I’ve liked him for a few years now, he’s excellent.

“Hart’s done really, really well. But I wouldn’t want him to get over confident, because we haven’t got anyone that’s pushing him for his place. The same goes for Man City – he mustn’t think ‘don’t worry, I’ll do what I want and I won’t worry about if I make a mistake because I’ll get picked again’. If he gets that attitude then he won’t be as good a goalkeeper as he wants to be.”

The reality is that Hart’s selection is as common a matchday feature for England as the Three Lions crest that appears on each individual kit. Like perhaps no other English goalkeeper with the exception of David Seaman and Banks before him, Hart’s position is under little threat from any which is partly why in scarcely over five months in charge, England manager Roy Hodgson has already given international debuts to two goalkeepers – Jack Butland and John Ruddy – and included a third, Fraser Forster, in the international squad for the first time.

The theme of England’s lack of strength in depth is a growing one in the national game, and there are multiple theories for that particular predicament, but for Banks the problem is considerably more simple and obvious.

“I think it’s the foreign managers that we have in this country,” Banks explains. “They’ve got a little bit of money to spend and they will go and buy players from their country, or foreign countries, instead of giving the English players a chance to get through. Not just the goalkeepers, but outfield players too. That’s why Mr Hodgson’s only got a few people to select from. It’s a concern.”

Gordon Banks was speaking at the launch of The Football Pools 90th Season campaign – In the 90th – that crucial minute when fortunes are decided. Play now at www.thefootballpools.com.