It is fair to say that England have produced something of a mixed bag when it comes to goalkeepers, with even those history will remember as being among the finest the Three Lions have ever seen having blotted their copybooks somewhat by outstaying their welcome.
How different could the tale of English football be had the ageing figures of Peter Shilton and David Seaman not been between the sticks at World Cups which promised much but delivered little in terms of tangible reward – with their bodies preventing them from getting far enough off the ground to deal with balls looping agonisingly over their bubble permed/ponytailed (delete as appropriate) bonces?
They are, at least, still held in high esteem by most, which is perhaps more than can be said for David James – how anyone with the nickname ‘Calamity’ ends his career with 53 caps remains something of a mystery – while the likes of Scott Carson, Paul Robinson and Robert Green have all endured forgettable moments while donning the colours of their country over the course of the last decade.
We should, therefore, be grateful that England are currently reliant upon Joe Hart providing their last line of defence.
Admittedly, his record his far from faultless, but here is a man who has survived the Abu Dhabi overhaul at Manchester City to become the longest-serving member of a squad expected to compete for major honours at home and abroad by the paying public and UEFA competitions betting experts.
He has also been the go-to shot-stopper for England since their efforts to reach Euro 2008 were washed away in the Wembley rain along with the managerial reputation of a wally with a brolly.
Hart has now amassed 55 caps for his country, only three goalkeepers have more, and he is still only 28 years of age. Given what he has already achieved, and what may be to come, does the City stalwart get the recognition he deserves?
It is not difficult to argue, despite England’s faultless amble towards Euro 2016 and Wayne Rooney’s record-breaking achievements along the way, that he is the best player within Roy Hodgson’s ranks – a man at the peak of his powers and one who can be relied upon to be deliver when needed.
He really should be on a path which leads him towards a post-retirement standing among the great and good of the game.
Were he to turn out the highest level for the next 10 years, there is every reason to believe that he can overhaul Shilton’s collection of 125 caps, while other major goalkeeping records are there to be shot at.
As things stand, Hart has kept 31 clean sheets in his 55 England outings – a very respectable 56 per cent games to shut-out ratio.
To compare that to those around him on that particular run down, only Chris Woods – who made just 43 appearances but kept 26 clean sheets (60%) – can lay claim to having bettered the City man’s figures.
Only three men have kept opponents quiet on more occasions, the same trio to have accumulated more caps, and their respective returns are: Gordon Banks (35 in 73, 43%), David Seaman (40 in 75, 53%) and Peter Shilton (66 in 125, 53%).
Hart is clearly deserving of a standing within that elite group of international performers and will believe that he is more than capable of eclipsing their achievements in the years to come – with Banks and Seaman well within his sights.
Honours of some sort would be required to elevate him to a standing alongside World Cup winner Banks as a true icon of the game, but who is to say that the stars will not align at some stage for England, pigs will take flight and a drought which currently stands at 50 years ahead of a trip to France next summer will be ended.
It is probably best if we do not hold our collective breath, but in Hart we can at least console ourselves in the knowledge that the first name on that particular tick sheet is more safe hands than butter fingers.