Hodgson hoping Hart can inspire
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England manager Roy Hodgson on Tuesday underlined the importance of Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart to his team's plans as they prepare for the UEFA EURO 2012.

Hodgson, whose side open their Group D campaign against France on 11 June in Donetsk, Ukraine, will head out to Krakow on Wednesday and stressed the importance of a strong goalkeeper to inspire confidence through the team.

"His form for Manchester City has been superb," said Hodgson. "When he has played for England he has done very well and if we are to do well there is no doubt we will need Joe Hart in top form."

England have a tradition of world-class goalkeepers stretching back to Gordon Banks and the likes of Peter Shilton and current England coach Ray Clemence, but more recent shot-stoppers have found it harder to impose themselves as a regular first choice.

With Ben Foster having quit the England scene and Norwich international rookie John Ruddy ruled out through injury, Hart is the clear first choice ahead of Robert Green of West Ham and Jack Butland, who has only lower league experience with Cheltenham to draw on.

Hart, 25, can draw on the experience of his Premier League title success with City and Hodgson hopes he will prove a true bedrock for his side. "If you look at the top England teams of the past we have often had a goalkeeper that people have suggested is one of the best in Europe or, in the case of Gordon Banks, in the world," Hodgson said.

When he has played for England he has done very well and if we are to do well there is no doubt we will need Joe Hart in top form.
Roy Hodgson on Joe Hart

Hart thrives on pressure
The supremely confident Hart, meanwhile, is thriving on the additional responsibility of being England's first-choice goalkeeper in contrast to the unused bystander of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. "South Africa was amazing. I absolutely loved it. I just wish we had done better as a team. We had a really good squad out there and it was unfortunate we couldn't do as well as we wanted to," Hart said.

"For me, it's a totally different mindset this time to two years ago. There's an awful lot more expected of me this time with playing all the qualifying games and things like that. But I like that responsibility and hopefully I'll bring something positive to the team."

Hart believes back-to-back clean-sheets in 1-0 friendly wins over Norway and Belgium this month were the perfect preparation for the more searching examination likely to be provided by France. "The game against France will be one of the biggest games of the championships," he said. "France will play some pretty football around the box so we have to be ready for that.

"Thankfully I've been lucky enough with England to have been involved in some pretty big games the last couple of years and this will be the next one. The fact we are looking solid helps. It's something I've had with my club side and it's helped us do well, winning the Premier League and FA Cup. That's been mirrored with England. We communicate well and have a solid set-up. The defence has been great."