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.
The Three Lions returned to their Hertfordshire base this afternoon, from where they will head to Luton Airport tomorrow for the flight to Krakow - their home for the next three and a half weeks if things turn out as Hodgson wants.
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 who, man for man, is accepted as the player England can least afford to be without.
“I agree he will be vital,” Hodgson said. “His form for Manchester City has been superb. 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.
“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 per cent 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.”
See Friday’s Star for an eight-page preview of the European Championship.