Hart has firmly established himself as the nation’s top stopper over the past two years and lent the team a reliable last line of defence in the traditions of Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton and Seaman himself.
The Manchester City goalkeeper is already worthy of mention alongside those revered predecessors, says Seaman, who has seen enough from Hart’s short career to suggest he will soon outstrip any contemporaries.
“I think Joe’s already stepping in there by what he’s done so far. The previous ones have done it season after season. But what he’s achieved already it’s fantastic,” said Seaman ahead of Sunday’s quarter-final against Italy.
“Joe’s got the chance of becoming the best in the world. If he keeps progressing like he is doing then it will be sooner rather than later. I can’t see any weaknesses at the moment. Goalkeepers will make mistakes and they will make big mistakes. What I look for is how they react. And every time questions have been asked, he’s replied with great performances in the next game.
“Mental strength for a goalkeeper is huge because once you make a mistake it can really cost your team, your country. I’ve experienced it myself and came back and won the league and won another title. It’s stuff like that; you’ve got to be really mentally strong.”
Double-winning former Arsenal star Seaman remains the only England goalkeeper in history to win an international penalty shoot-out, having done so against Spain in the last eight of the 1996 tournament in England. However, that is one distinction he would be willing to lose if it means Roy Hodgson’s men progressing from what he expects to be a cagey encounter against the Italians in Kiev.
“I see it being very, very tight looking at both teams’ performances. They have been very defensive, which I love, and then trying to get a lead. All I can see is it being really, really tight,” added the Euro ‘96 hero.
“But the way England are progressing is good. It’s a slow progression, we are finally getting some ideas about what Roy wants – building from defence – and for me it’s encouraging. I just hope it carries on for Sunday night.
“I would love us to win on penalties. It’s about time we did. I would love us to win on anything – to get through those quarter-finals would be a great achievement. I would love to see it [Seaman’s record] beaten. I would love to see Joe save the penalties in the final – that would be ideal. He is having a fantastic competition.”
David Seaman was speaking on behalf of Budweiser at the announcement of a host ex-internationals signing for semi-pro club Wembley FC