Another round of World Cup qualification has been mundanely traversed by England’s national team and fans can once again begin to wildly speculate on the Three Lions’ chances on football’s biggest stage.
As viewers start to wake from their slumber—inevitably induced by England’s soporific display in Lithuania—we at Soccity decided to launch a preemptive strike at the aforementioned speculation. Whilst there are many positions on the pitch that will fill fans with a sense of dread (what the hell do we do if Kane gets injured?), there is one area that seems in safer hands – that is, if Joe Hart isn’t wearing the gloves.
England are (relatively) blessed with both emerging talent and experience when it comes to the position of goalkeeper, and it’s this competition that will have to be exploited if there is to be anything more than a snowball’s chance in hell of hearing ‘God Save the Queen’ beyond the group stages.
Here’s who the writers think should be guarding the net for England at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia..
With regards to who England should give the gloves to for the World Cup in Russia, it would seem that the heart wants what the heart wants, but no heart wants Hart.
I can’t do anything but echo the sentiment that Hart should go nowhere near the plane headed for Moscow. Lately, his form has taken a tremendous dip; digging deeper the ocean trench that symbolises—in my mind—his standard of performance over recent years. It’s high time we accepted that he’s too old to reclaim it in a way that has meaning in the long-run. Gareth Southgate should do what he couldn’t with Wayne Rooney and put an ailing old servant out to pasture.
In my head, the person I see starting in between the sticks on those Siberian nights is Jack Butland. Despite all the cold in Russia, I think it’s time for a baptism of fire. Butland is certainly no stranger to plunging in at the deep end: at the time of his debut he became England’s youngest ever goalkeeper (at just 19) and famously made his international debut before his first start for Birmingham City’s senior team. He’ll be 25 when England head to Russia, and I can’t help but think some genuine, testing tournament experience will be exactly what he needs to kick him up the rungs of the footballing ladder.
As far as the other two places are concerned, my lineup looks identical to writer Adam Sturrock’s, albeit with a different starting ‘keeper.
Tom Heaton has been sensational for Burnley since their promotion, and, like Adam, I hope that the stigma surrounding lower-table Premier League sides doesn’t effect his chances of being picked for the England squad. For me, he’d be a more than capable understudy to Butland and I’d happily see him start if injury or a loss of form occurs.
The final position should be given to Jordan Pickford. If nothing else, being around the squad in the environment that a World Cup enforces will provide him with valuable experience.
The inclusion of this trio would act as a show of faith from Southgate in the future of English football. If Butland plays to his potential, he could be a world-beater for England for a significant length of time. Either way, I look forward to a potential future where Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford battle it out for England’s No. 1 shirt.
I am sure Gareth Southgate has poured over tens of hours of videos featuring his players, wrapped up warm for late night matches and is probably on a hotline to most agents and players in the Premier League. But it baffles me to see Joe Hart persevering and somehow sneaking into the England line-up. In his prime, he was easily England’s best available Goalkeeper. But, he is a confidence keeper and when it takes a dent he really does flounder. He hasn’t been the same since the Euros and hasn’t been that hot between the posts so far in the Premier League. For the sake of my schadenfreude, the image of Hart flapping at two freekicks at Hampden will forever give me joy. But I must be pragmatic.
Out of the keepers available, I think England can do better.
Who do I want in the squad? I don’t think England could go wrong by choosing Tom Heaton, Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland as the three on the coach. Pound for pound, Burnley’s stopper faced the most shots on target by any goalkeeper last season (189) but still managed to keep out 74.6% – that’s an insane statistic. Maybe he doesn’t play for a typically exciting team, but I don’t think that should stop him from firmly staking a claim for an England spot.
With Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford, England has the young back-ups they have been crying out for. Out of the two, Butland has slowly built up his reputation and is now getting back into action after a lengthy injury. Pickford is England’s future but, for now, I am happy for him to battle it out for a back-up role.
When discussion arises over England and their choice of goalkeeper, a lot of people sigh and quite a few get Vietnam-style flashbacks of tournament howlers – Rob Green vs the USA, Joe Hart in almost every game at UEFA Euro 2016 etc.
My addition to the thinkpiece is short, but controversial..
Jordan Pickford is young and relatively inexperienced, Jack Butland needs a few more games as he gets used to life in between the sticks again after that lengthy lay-off, and Joe Hart is, well, Joe Hart.
England need Ben Foster.
He’s a tried and tested veteran and, like a vintage wine, has only improved. He looks commanding for West Brom and only made one mistake that led to a goal last season. When it comes to international football, and especially tournaments, it’s a level head that’s needed and Foster’s bags of experience and calmness under pressure wins him the number one spot for me.
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