Should Burnley's Tom Heaton be England's number one?
The England national team has a lot of problems, but the goalkeeper position isn’t one of them. They have several options, including the Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton. He has been a part of the England squad since the injury to Jack Butland, but he could now be ready to seriously challenge Joe Hart and Fraser Forster to be the national team’s number one. The Telegraph suggested that if he remains in this form, Gareth Southgate could be ready to consider giving him an opportunity for the Three Lions.
There is no denying that Heaton is in impressive form, but it would take a huge call from Southgate to give him the number one shirt. That said, the England interim manager has showed that he is ready to make potentially unpopular decisions if he thinks it is in the best interests of the team. That was evident from his decision to drop Wayne Rooney from the starting eleven, which was hugely impressive and showed that he could have the fortitude to be a successful England manager.
Looking closer at Heaton’s performances, he has made an incredible 41 saves, showing his impressive shot-stopping ability. He has kept three clean sheets, which is especially impressive as he is playing in a promoted side. The goalkeeper has also showed that he can control his area and claim aerial balls. He often comes out to relieve the pressure on his back four and that is a valuable quality for a goalkeeper to possess. It has taken Heaton some time to establish himself in the Premier League, but he is now emerging as one of the league’s best and most consistent.
It has been his performances against Southampton and Manchester United that have caught the eye of the media. Burnley have been conceding a high frequency of shots away from home and that is providing Heaton with a platform to make a case for international selection. Against Manchester United, he finished the match with 11 saves, including one superhuman stop to prevent Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He remained concentrated throughout the 90 minutes and earned his side a point that wasn’t deserved.
The competition for the England goalkeeper spot is fierce, with Joe Hart and Fraser Forster currently ahead of Heaton. Although Hart has been bombed out of the Premier League, he is playing regularly with Torino and will be developing quietly away from the close scrutiny that comes from playing in the Premier League. He should be applauded for his decision to move abroad and reminded everybody what he could do in the last England match. Hart was superb against Slovenia, making a number of good saves to keep his clean sheet intact. After the problems that he encountered at Manchester City, it was a rewarding performance for the goalkeeper and one that will have sent his confidence sky high. Meanwhile, Forster has kept three clean sheets in the Premier League this season, continuing to impress with Southampton.
Although Heaton has been excellent in recent weeks, it would be premature to give him a start for England, especially in a derby match against Scotland. It is usual for keepers playing for teams lower in the division to impress, as they are called into action a lot more often. David Marshall was one of the stars of the 2013-14 season with Cardiff City and Heaton impressed with Burnley during their last spell in the Premier League. He has yet to show himself to be better than either Joe Hart or Fraser Forster and for that reason, he should continue as England’s number three. If he continues to earn Burnley points with incredible logic-defying performances, then the question should be raised again. However, it is too soon to consider him as England’s number one at this moment.
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