Is Stoke's Jack Butland the next in-line for England after another Joe Hart horror show?
Another match, another error as far as Joe Hart is concerned.
The 30-year-old goalkeeper hasn’t exactly enjoyed the best of times since returning to the Premier League with West Ham last month, conceding ten times in just three appearances so far this season.
This comes off the back of a relatively arduous spell in Italy with Torino, where he kept five clean sheets in 36 Serie A matches and conceded 62 goals – more than any other team inside the top-half.
And with the 2018 World Cup fast approaching on the horizon, is his first-team spot in jeopardy?
In all honesty, it should be.
Despite the fact that Hart has been at the forefront of the England national side since he made his debut almost ten years ago everything has an expiration date, and Hart’s form is not World Cup-worthy.
His woeful start to the Premier League season tells its own story but, within three minutes at Wembley on Monday evening, he showed once again why he’s not cut out for this level right now.
He was slow to get off his line following a neat chipped through ball to Stanislav Lobotka, and he offered worryingly little resistance as the Slovakian youngster prodded the ball just inches underneath his arm.
One thing that has plagued the England side for as long as can be remembered is that players are very rarely picked on current domestic form, instead being selected based on past performances and past importance to the national side, and Gareth Southgate has been guilty of this with his goalkeeper.
Speaking before the Malta and Slovakia games he re-iterated the fact that Hart remains his chosen number one, claiming that he’s England’s ‘best goalkeeper’, but the reality of this is that he’s wrong.
With the likes of Jordan Pickford, Tom Heaton and Jack Butland waiting in the wings there are further options that are in better form than the West Ham man, and these displays deserve an opportunity.
And it’s the Stoke City goalkeeper who could really pounce on Hart’s unimpressive run of form and make a last-gasp push to become England’s number one when the 2018 World Cup begins in Russia.
After being awarded a run in the England side prior to the 2016 European Championships, with a real feeling that he could be a first-team contender, he suffered a set-back during a friendly against Germany which saw him on the side-lines for a lengthy period, only returning to action at the end of last year.
But since then he’s shown the sort of form in the Premier League that a world-class international goalkeeper should, leading an always obdurate Stoke outfit from the back and setting a precedent.
His display in the shock victory over Arsenal a few weeks ago was nothing short of sensational, being subject to a Gunners’ barrage for 90 minutes but standing firm with some moments of brilliance.
On that occasion he made five excellent saves, won 100% of his attempted aerial claims and just generally commanded his back-line, keeping a watchful eye from the back and communicating well.
This is the sort of leader that England need heading forward, and if Gareth Southgate has any sense about him then he will know he must drop Hart to give someone like Butland a pre-World Cup chance.
The Premier League is still in its infancy this season so it’s hard to read into things too much but, should Hart’s form continue in this downward spiral, it’s a likely story his England day are becoming numbered.
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