Birmingham City made Joe Hart a better goalkeeper, says Alex McLeish
Joe Hart's spell at Birmingham City was vital to him reaching the level required to be England's number one, according to his former boss Alex McLeish.
The Manchester City star spent last season on loan at St Andrew's, where his superb performances were key to Blues achieving a ninth-placed finish in the Premier League and earned him a place in Fabio Capello's World Cup squad.
Hart was an unused member of the 23-man group but has now established himself as England's top goalkeeper, but McLeish revealed there was work to be done when he first arrived in Birmingham.
McLeish said: "I was the worst critic of my goalkeepers when I played for 18 years at Aberdeen and Scotland.
"I used to get frustrated with the 'keepers. We looked at Joe Hart's game last year after the first few games. I spoke to (Birmingham goalkeeping coach) Dave Watson and said 'there are a few things we've simply got to work on'.
"At the time, one of the things was that Joe was punching everything.
"I said 'Joe, you are 6ft 4in tall, you're the only guy who can use your hands in the box'. Dave, myself and Joe saw some video stuff and we thought it was a wee habit he had just got into.
"We don't know where he acquired it but it was in his game and maybe that is why Mark Hughes decided to go for Shay Given (at Manchester City)."
McLeish recalled: "In our next game, Maik Taylor played against Man City, when Joe couldn't play, had a shut-out and rightly felt he should be in the next game.
"I said 'no, Joe is out by default, he is back in, he is my number one for the season'.
"Joe took a lot of confidence from that and the fact Dave had been working with him in that interim two weeks between the Man City game and the next one.
"I remember a big cross coming into the box and Joe took it, and I could see the chest puffing out and the head going up and he never looked back and is now England's current first choice."
Hart has now usurped Given as Manchester City number one under Roberto Mancini and barring injury looks certain to earn his fourth successive cap when England host Montenegro in a Euro 2012 qualifier at Wembley on Tuesday night.
The squad will gather at their Hertfordshire base for the weekend to prepare for the game.
Hart will be joined in the goalkeeping ranks by current Birmingham City number one Ben Foster, and McLeish has been delighted at how he has bedded in since his £6million summer move from Manchester United.
McLeish said: "Ben Foster is looking every inch a top-class 'keeper.
"I think he just needed games and he is getting them now.
"I spoke to Fabio, the season we brought Joe in here, at the Community Shield.
"He said Joe must play to have any chance of getting any consistency and confidence and it is the same with Ben."
Meanwhile, West Brom goalkeeper Scott Carson admits he is "devastated" to be left out of the England squad after being included for the Bulgaria and Switzerland games.
Carson was forced to withdraw because of a family bereavement and now Robert Green has been preferred, along with Hart and Foster, for the Wembley clash.
Carson said: "Getting the recall for the last qualifiers was a big boost. I was delighted to be back but I needed to leave after a couple of days.
"I was really devastated to find myself out this time. Having got back in for the last squad, I thought I'd carried my form on in the last few games.
"Being forced to pull out last time was for personal reasons and things seem to have gone against me.
"I won't sulk. I have to keep performances up and get everyone talking about me again in a good way.
"How I react to this is important. I will let my performances get me back in."