Hart will be vital - Hodgson
England's Euro 2012 build-up might have been dominated by a player he is happy to do without - but manager Roy Hodgson acknowledges Joe Hart is impossible to ignore.
Hodgson will find it impossible to escape the Rio Ferdinand question until he addresses it, although there is no need for him to speak on the issue until Sunday afternoon - the UEFA designated pre-match press conference for England's Group D opener with France - should he so desire.
He is certainly on safer ground with his assessment of Manchester City goalkeeper Hart, now widely accepted as the player England can least afford to be without. Hodgson said: "I agree he will be vital. His form for Manchester City has been superb."
Hodgson continued: "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."
A proud tradition of world-class goalkeepers - including Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton, current England coach Ray Clemence, and David Seaman - hit a fallow period recently. Paul Robinson and David James amassed plenty of caps without truly being top drawer.
Scott Carson's poor performance against Croatia helped result in England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008 and cost Steve McClaren his job. Ben Foster looked to be the answer until form, fitness and, eventually, lack of interest, condemned him exclusively to a club career - a situation Hodgson has been unable to reverse.
Once uncapped Norwich keeper John Ruddy was ruled out of this tournament, Hodgson opted for the promise of 19-year-old Jack Butland to fill the third available slot, even though his only senior action has come in League Two for Cheltenham.
Fortunately, England have Hart, whose saves played a significant role in Manchester City clinching their first league title for 44 years and, at 25, has so much improvement still to make.
"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.
"I agree 100% with Brian Clough. He always placed great faith in goalkeepers. He felt that got you a lot of points every year. He produces the save that a normal goalkeeper wouldn't. That lifts your team higher up the league. It also gives confidence, which is another factor."
Related England News