Green must grab chance: Fleming

Robert Green is in line to claim the England number one shirt for good this weekend, according to a man who watched his career blossom at Carrow Road.

Robert Green is in line to claim the England number one shirt for good this weekend, according to a man who watched his career blossom at Carrow Road.

Craig Fleming was in the Norwich City back four the day that Green made his first team debut just over a decade ago and went on to play scores of games alongside him.

And now Fleming believes the timing is perfect for Green to establish himself as Fabio Capello's first choice keeper if, as expected, he makes his first competitive appearance for England in the World Cup qualifier in Kazakhstan today.

“It's his chance to prove himself and I think he will take that chance,” said Fleming. “He's been unlucky in that he has made the odd appearance but has never been able to get a few matches under his belt. With David James now injured this is his chance to get that run together - and at the end of it to prove that he is worth keeping in the position.

“The thing with Robert is that he does what defenders want - he gets on with the job, he doesn't make rash decisions like rushing out of his goal for balls he can't get or coming out for crosses he is never going to reach. What else do you need in a keeper except the confidence that someone like him is behind you?

“This is his chance and I firmly believe he will take it.”

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Green made his senior debut in the East Anglian derby against Ipswich at Carrow Road following an injury to Andy Marshall, a clean sheet ensuring that City had a ready-made successor when Marshall made his controversial free transfer move to Portman Road in the summer of 2001.

It was then that Fleming saw just how good Green was.

“He was always one of the hardest working players we had,” said Fleming. “He was always working overtime at training, but the funny thing was we saw more of that after Andy had left. He worked hard, but there was a marked difference when Andy left. Robert worked his socks off after that.

“He became a very good keeper, as we all saw. He's a very good shot-stopper, he kicks well, his all round game is quality and he is confident in what he does. I don't actually see many weaknesses.

“Robert isn't a stereotypical footballer. You won't see him rolling out of nightclubs at three in the morning. Don't get me wrong, he didn't mind a pint, but he was always sensible about it. he's just a likeable, decent lad.”

Green was a key figure in the 2003-04 team that won promotion to the top flight and made his England debut against Colombia in the United States. But after relegation he spent just another full season at Carrow Road before joining West Ham in August, 2006, soon after he had missed out on a World Cup trip to the Far East after suffering an horrific groin injury when playing for England B against Belarus.

The Chertsey-born keeper wasn't an immediate hit with Capello - having “England number six” stitched into his gloves for a club match illustrated his sense of humour - and had to wait until February before he earned his second cap, as a second-half sub against Spain.

Now, with James, and Ben Foster injured it could be Green's turn to shine.

“He's there on merit, but I think he could have been there a long time ago,” said Fleming (pictured).

“It seems to be a trait with England that we never seem to blood the younger or less experienced keepers, like Robert, like Joe Hart at Manchester City. Players like that should have been blooded earlier.

“Everyone knows what David James could do so why not try the others in friendlies?

“But Robert's got his chance and I think he will take it.”

Kazakhstan v England - Setanta Sports 1, 3pm. Kick-off 4pm.