As Joe Hart stepped between the sticks for his 64th cap, and one of his quietest to date with just 13 touches, it saw him make an England appearance under a fourth England manager in his career as he once again looks set to retain his place as first choice under Gareth Southgate despite being bombed out by Manchester City in the summer. But does he deserve to hold that position?
In short, yes. Hart may well have suffered a dreadful Euro 2016 campaign, but he wasn’t the only one. His errors, particularly up against Wales and Iceland, made life difficult for the Three Lions, but were some of the only errors he has made in an England shirt since his international debut in June 2008.
Whilst he did not fit Pep Guardiola’s model at Manchester City, Hart has gone out on loan to Torino and excelled with two clean sheets in his first five games in Serie A, only suffering defeat on his debut. Hart has immediately become a favourite of fans in Italy who value his committed performances and superb shot stopping at a level which is not much lower than the Premier League if at all.
To say that Hart playing in Serie A should affect his England chances is only representative of why England struggles to export players abroad effectively, as the process has benefited the likes of Spain and Germany hugely in recent years.
Some had claimed that Fraser Forster should have started in goal though. The Southampton goalkeeper has kept clean sheets in his most recent performances for the Saints in the Premier League having regularly shown that he has the ability to challenge Hart with some memorable displays for the south coast club since his move from Celtic in 2014.
The man more likely to displace Hart is Jack Butland. The Stoke City goalkeeper is still out of action with complications after suffering a knee injury on international duty at the end of last season against Germany but is nearing a return. The 23-year-old has huge potential and a wealth of experience through England’s youth ranks and even with Team GB at London 2012. With four caps to his name, Butland can expect to add to that number when he returns to fitness, to the expense of Hart.
For now, the number one shirt is safe in the hands of Joe Hart, but his days may be numbered. Much will depend upon where his future lies at the end of this season. If Hart can continue his current form at a high level, whether in England or abroad, he should put up a good fight to retain his place, but with Jack Butland only improving with experience, he will face the toughest challenge since he replaced Rob Green as first choice after the 2010 World Cup.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Ai Kagou.