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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

Football

Hart ready to take a back seat as England face minnows
AFP
London, October 11, 2012
First Published: 09:19 IST(11/10/2012)
Last Updated: 09:20 IST(11/10/2012)

England goalkeeper Joe Hart admits he is looking forward to 90 minutes with nothing to do when his side try to restore the feelgood factor against San Marino in Friday's World Cup qualifier.

A stormy few weeks for English football reached an ugly conclusion with Ashley Cole being charged by the Football Association for calling the governing body "a bunch of twats" in the aftermath of the hearing that saw John Terry found guilty of racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand.

In the circumstances, Roy Hodgson's side desperately need to produce an eye-catching display to get an increasingly disillusioned public back onside and San Marino's visit to Wembley is the perfect opportunity to do just that.

England are huge favourites to beat one of the weakest teams in world football and Hart is likely to have one of the quietest matches of his international career.

San Marino have never won a qualification game and their only victory in 22 years came in a friendly against Liechtenstein in 2004.

Along with Bhutan and the Turks and Caicos Islands they sit bottom of FIFA's rankings list on zero points and even the ultra cautious Hodgson concedes his team should win easily.

The prospect of little activity in the England penalty area would usually frustrate Hart as the Manchester City star prefers to be in the thick of the action.

But he is happy to join the 90,000 sell-out crowd as a virtual spectator if it means England get back to winning ways after drawing their last home qualifier against Ukraine.

"You've got to enjoy it, of course. Because I'm hopefully playing for England," Hart said.

"I am not going to stand there and sulk because they are not coming near the penalty area. It will be a great occasion. We are playing in front of potentially 90,000 people in a qualifier so there is not a great deal not to enjoy.

"Obviously, going back to being a kid you can't help but enjoy when you are under pressure and getting loads to do. The reality is it is a job and a livelihood and we need to win. Ideally I don't want to touch the  ball, I want us to win 10-0 and me not to touch the ball."

San Marino have conceded 30 goals in their last six games and their two previous meetings with England finished in 6-0 and 7-1 defeats.

That one goal conceded remains a sore point for England as it was scored by Davide Gualtieri just 8.3 seconds into a World Cup qualifier at the end of Graham Taylor's ill-fated reign in 1993.

Yet Hart isn't losing any sleep over the possibility of a repeat, or even conceding a goal at any stage of the game.

"That's just football. Over the course of 90 minutes you saw the real side of that game. We won 7-1," he said.

"It doesn't matter in goal who you are playing against. If someone hits the ball right or they get that chance they can't miss you are going to concede.

"You might have some interesting people scoring against you but that is the beauty of being a goalkeeper."

With regular captain Steven Gerrard suspended, vice-captain Frank Lampard struggling with a knee injury and Cole uncertain to play after his disciplinary troubles, Hart and Wayne Rooney are the leading contenders to skipper the side on Friday.

Hart admits he would love the job, but he fully expects Rooney to be given the honour.

"I've no idea but I'm pretty sure it will fall to Rooney," he said. "He is our star man with millions of caps at the age of whatever he is, 26? I imagine he is a little bit further up the queue than me.

"Of course I would like it, anyone would but that's life. It is a great thing to play for your country. I really do mean that. I'm not really bothered who is in charge of that. I am just happy to play."


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