Hart keeps fingers crossed for friend Richards

WHILE openly admitting his bias, goalkeeper Joe Hart really hopes Micah Richards gets to start England’s Euro 2012 qualifier with Bulgaria tomorrow.

With regular right-back Glen Johnson missing through injury, coach Fabio Capello has a big decision to make over his replacement.

Phil Jagielka has stood in a couple of times before, although with Rio Ferdinand missing, the Everton defender could be required to partner John Terry at centre-half.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

If that proves to be the case, it would appear to be a straight choice between Richards and Manchester United’s Chris Smalling.

Capello has already spoken of his surprise at how well Smalling has adapted to the full-back role, after being moved into that position by Sir Alex Ferguson at the start of the season.

Yet Smalling does not have a minute of senior experience behind him. In contrast, Richards has 12 caps.

The obvious problem is that all but one of them date back to the Steve McClaren era, when Richards became England’s youngest defender and appeared set for a stellar career.

Capello did not share the same opinion, believing the Blues defender to be reckless and prone to drifting out of position.

Richards bridged a three-year gap when he finally featured for the Italian in last November’s friendly defeat to France, although his absence since suggests Capello is still not convinced.

Hart is though. And having observed Richards at close quarters for the past year, he is confident the 23-year-old has what it takes to make an impact at the highest level.

Playing for a winning Manchester City team definitely boosts his chances of selection.

“I am very biased because I am a massive Micah Richards fan and have been for years,” said Hart.

“There were a few question marks the year before but last year he was outstanding. He is a real rock. We have been at City together for a long time now and he has been brilliant. I have my fingers crossed that he will get his chance.”

Both Richards, and Smalling for that matter, are part of a new wave of players, hoping to sweep England to success in the future although, at 24, Hart is hardly an old stager.

“It is brilliant to have all these young players,” reflected Hart.

“Quite a few of the lads have been getting their opportunity at club level, which has obviously helped them to get in the England side.

“The boys who have been at the better clubs have realised that they need games and got themselves out on loan. It is good.”