Hart: Terry loss a huge blow for England
Joe Hart has bemoaned the international retirement of former England skipper John Terry, describing the controversial defender as "an inspiration and a very passionate and proud Englishman".
Hart is tipped to stand behind a new-look defensive pairing of Joleon Lescott with Phil Jagielka for England's 2014 World Cup qualifier against San Marino on Friday evening. But the Manchester City shot-stopper is mournful of the fact that Terry, who amassed 78 caps, opted to exit the international stage last month.
Terry quit England amid widespread unrest, and has since been found guilty by an Independent Regulatory Commission of making a racist remark to QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. At the time, the 31-year-old described his position as "untenable", though Hart insists he will be missed by the England camp.
"John is a great centre-half, a great servant to his country, an inspiration and a very passionate and proud Englishman," said Hart. "It's a shame we've lost him as he's still got so much ability. It's a big blow, but it's John's decision.
"I don't know what's going on in John's life on or off the field. I don't know his body or his frame of mind. I only know that, when I'm here with England, training and eating chicken and pasta next to him, he's a really good guy, a good person and, football-wise, an inspiration.
"He was someone who, when I first came to the squad, treated me just the same as he does now. When I first came into the squad as a third-choice goalkeeper with no chance of playing, he treated me the same as he does now.
"I can't thank him enough for how helpful he's been with me in the England squad and he's someone I respect very, very much on and off the field. He was great to me and the other players."
"Joleon [Lescott] and John seemed to have the shirt then Jags [Phil Jagielka] came in last time and Gary Cahill is a great talent at Chelsea and a Champions League winner now. Ryan [Shawcross] has come in and been so consistent for Stoke. It's highlighted week in week out as a defensive unit how strong they are."
Ashley Cole is expected to be another absent figure in the Three Lions' starting XI to face San Marino at Wembley. Over the past week, Cole has also attracted his share of controversy after blasting the FA via Twitter after they deemed his evidence in support of Terry had "evolved".
Everton's Leighton Baines is reportedly set to be given the starting spot at left-back, but Hart gave a glowing appraisal of Cole's value to the England squad.
"Ashley is that good, one of the best, and has been for such a long time, so reliable, so fit, so quick. He offers so much," said Hart.
"I can't even think of a time where a winger or a forward has given Ashley a hard time. You just accept that side of the field is sorted, you don't ever really need to worry about.
"If you spoke to Ashley I think he'd say he loves the fact that 'Bainesy' is getting a little bit of air time and a lot of love because it's going to make him play better and harder.
"He's had his issues and he doesn't speak out especially. But he's a great person to know and someone I really admire as a footballer. He was very welcoming, especially to myself. I've noticed that with the young lads [how welcoming Cole is]. That's the beauty of him."