England Under-21s goalkeeper coach selects his choice for the Three Lions Player of the Year
Martin Thomas has worked closely with many of England's goalkeepers since joining The FA in 1996, so it's no surprise when asked for his vote for the Men's Player of the Year award, he went for the Three Lions' no.1.
The Under-21s goalkeeper coach, who recently released his autobiography
, was also part of the Team GB backroom staff at London 2012.
However, while Jack Butland
has stood out for both of Stuart Pearce's sides this year, it's his Under-21s predecessor who Thomas believes was England Senior Team's top performer during 2012.
Thomas coached Joe Hart
when the Manchester City stopper was part of the the Young Lions squad at both the 2007 and 2009 European Championships and has seen him flourish into one of Europe's top 'keepers.
And in 2012 the 240-year-old featured in eleven of the 12 games for England, keeping five clean sheets.
"What he has shown is an appetite for the game and he’s fantastic on the training ground," said Thomas.
"Every challenge that has been thrown at him he’s met full on, whether that’s with the U19s, Under-21s or moving into the Seniors.
"He’s a very talented goalkeeper and just loves playing football."
He continued: "Since he was a 19-year-old, I just thought it would be a natural progression to work his way through the age-groups up to the full squad.
"With the opportunity he’s had a Manchester City, he’s been playing at the very highest level on a regular basis and they are all big games.
"That’s given him the best possible chance to develop into the keeper he is."
Thomas added: "He was with us in the Under-21s and if you look at the goalkeepers who have come up since then, it’s him and Germany’s Manuel Neuer from the Euro Finals in 2009 who have made the biggest impact.
"I think now Joe is probably among the top two or three goalkeepers in Europe."
Do you agree with Martin's choice?
Joe Hart, along with Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Danny Welbeck are all in the hunt this year and it's up to you which star will claim the 2012 England Player of the Year award at the inaugural FA England Awards in association with Vauxhall at St. George's Park on Sunday 3 February 2013.
Place your vote in the poll below before the closing date of 13 January 2013. You can also vote for the England Men's Under-21s and Women's Senior Players of the Year, too.