Phil Jagielka may have been teasing Joe Hart over his recent dip in form, but he has no doubt that England will be able to rely on the goalie against Montenegro and Poland.
Hart’s position has come in to question after a series of poor performances. Given that they need two wins in their final two games to guarantee World Cup qualification, England can’t afford slip-ups. To Hart’s credit, he has not ducked the issue since joining up with the squad.
“Joe wouldn’t want to tiptoe around the issue, he loves the banter more than anyone,” Jgielka, the Everton and former Sheffield United defender said. “You just throw the odd comment in. You’re losing 10-9 to him at table tennis and you just say ’Bayern Munich’ or something.
“He gave me some back because City beat us 3-1 so I didn’t have a leg to stand on. Joe’s a great guy and a fantastic goalkeeper.”
Hart will have to be at his best on Friday when England host Montenegro and then again four days later for the visit of Poland.
Jagielka will line up in front of the Manchester City man he has no doubt about the 26-year-old’s ability to perform under the microscope.
“There is no question in my mind how Joe will react and how he will perform,” the England defender said.
“He is a fantastic goalkeeper and a fantastic lad. “If he does make a bad decision the ball ends up in the back of the goal - he knows that is part of the territory for him. “He sets massively high standards for himself and when it doesn’t go for him people are quick to jump on his back. “He knows he has the full backing of the whole squad and I am sure he is delighted to be here and he is looking forward to playing.”
If England are feeling the pressure ahead of their do-or-die double header then they were not showing it at St George’s Park on Tuesday afternoon.
Jagielka and Jack Wilshere were both in a relaxed mood as they addressed the media and the squad looked in bright spirits as they took part in their first full training session.
Harry Redknapp claimed in his soon to be published autobiography that some players are disenchanted with playing for England, but Jagielka insists he could not feel any different.
“It’s a massive privilege to play for your country,” the Everton skipper said.
“It’s nice to come away from your clubs and spend time with players from different clubs. “There’s different bits of banter flying around, I play golf with the Man City boys so it’s nice to get out of the week-in week-out duties with your clubs and come away with another bunch of kids and mess around with them.”