James Milner has defended Joe Hart, stating his England and Manchester City team-mate is a "victim of his own success" after his uneven start to the season.
Hart retains the confidence of Roy Hodgson, with the England manager planning to select him for the World Cup qualifiers against Moldova at Wembley on Friday and Ukraine in Kiev on Tuesday despite the goalkeeper making an error against Scotland. Hart allowed James Morrison's shot to slip past him for the opening goal in last month's 3-2 friendly win. Nine days later, during City's shock 3-2 defeat at Cardiff City, he flapped at a corner, allowing Fraizer Campbell to score Cardiff's second goal.
This followed an uneven campaign last season, yet Milner is adamant Hart remains unaffected. "He's confident enough," said the midfielder. "He knows what comes with being England's No1. With Manchester City and England you get to the top and you're there to be shot down. People talk less about the good things you do because they're expected and more about the mistakes you make. He's mentally strong enough to deal with that, that's not a problem but we're all human beings and if the players around him can give him a gee-up, even if he doesn't need it, that will help.
"He's a victim of his own success because of how good he's been and how quickly he's become England's No1 and playing for Manchester City. People said he had a poorer season last season but he won the Golden Glove."
As evidence of Hart's quality, Milner pointed to his outstanding display in City's 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad Stadium during last season's Champions League group stage. "Some of his performances and the saves he made – the Dortmund game stands out. We could have lost that game 8-1 very easily and that's not exaggerating. It was one of the best goalkeeping performances I've ever seen. Today in training, I know it's only training but you can see he's not struggling for form or confidence, it's [just] mistakes. I'm blessed as a midfielder because if I miscontrol the ball I've got four defenders and a goalkeeper behind me to save me. If Joe makes a mistake it's going to end up in the back of the net. That's the unfortunate thing about being a goalkeeper. He's a top keeper and we're lucky to have him."
The fractured foot suffered by Ben Foster will keep the West Bromwich Albion keeper out for 12 weeks, which means Hodgson has no real alternative to Hart, emphasising the need for him to regain his consistency.
Milner said. "Every player goes through ups and downs. As a keeper it's maybe more of an individual thing than anywhere else on the pitch. The centre-half goes through a dip in form, he's got his other centre-half to bale him out. The winger has his full-back. A striker doesn't score for 10 games, it's not going to show up as much. He might get a bit of criticism for not scoring, but other players can score."
England are second to Montenegro in Group H, trailing by two points with a game in hand so winning the group and ensuring automatic qualification remains in their hands.