After 120 minutes of stalwart defending, midfield mediocrity, and a little help from the goal posts, a pair of missed penalties from the pair of Ashleys sent England crashing out of the Euro 2012. Now that the dust has settled and Rooney’s hair has been earnestly lathered and blow-dried, the media has begun to search for bright spots in the Three Lions’ utterly forgettable tournament effort. Commentators and journalists have pointed out that England successfully progressed out of the group stages (they didn’t even qualify for the tournament in 2008), young talents like Danny Welbeck and “The Ox” promise a talented future, and everyone wins when John Terry manages to go abroad without racially abusing other players or stealing a teammate’s girlfriend. While those are indeed notable accomplishments, without question the silver lining of England’s 2012 Euro run is the way they played with hart. Joe Hart, that is.
For those unfamiliar with the cruel saga of English goalkeeping, the last ten years have been an ordeal. Since the decline of David Seaman and his disastrous gaffe in the 2002 World Cup quarter finals, the Three Lions have been starved for a pair of steady hands between the sticks. David James and Paul Robinson traded the position back and forth during the 2000s, both hell-bent on finding a more audacious way to lose the starting gig.
For the 2010 world cup, England coach Fabio Capello elected to roster three keepers, the decrepit David James, the steady Robert Green, and the talented rookie, Joe Hart. Capello chose Green for England’s match against the U.S., and despite an otherwise solid performance, Green’s terrible howler doomed him to infamy as a buffoon in the eyes of millions across the world. With his confidence utterly destroyed, Green had no chance of playing again in that World Cup. Unwilling to trust the promising young Hart, Capello chose the rickety old James who clearly didn’t have enough gas left in his tank to get the job done. Just like that, England crashed out of the World Cup.
Joe Hart rose out of the ashes of ten years of inconsistent English goalkeeping. The job was his for the taking, and he seized it with both gloved hands. For the last two years, the 25-year-old bleached- blonde Hart has been England’s undisputed starter. Winning the 2010-2011 Barclays Golden Glove award, Hart firmly established his place at Manchester City, and led them to victory in the 2011-2012 season. He is almost unanimously considered one of the top ten keepers in the world, and stands to mature and gain experience with age. His howler-free performance in his first major international tournament has put the fears of many to rest, and Hart seems to have broken the curse. At the rate he’s going, Hart looks poised to win the English Captaincy in the future.
So as the footballers enjoy their short summer vacations, English fans will go back to scouring the earth for the savior of English Soccer. Without doubt, many Theo Walcotts and Jack Wilsheres will be built up and torn down by the tabloids over the next few years — but thankfully the media can concentrate its efforts on the ten other positions on the pitch, because the spot between the posts is finally covered.