The England Number One

England have looked fine since they crashed out of Euro 2016 at the hands of Iceland, not exactly world-beaters in my opinion, but definitely showing more positive signs than in the build up to the two previous major international competitions. They eased through qualifying, performed adequately against the Netherlands and Italy  in friendly matches and have had a fair few national team players playing well for their respective clubs, so overall, hard to make any real complaints this far, even if you do question various team selections, the results have been positive. But, as the World Cup approaches, Gareth Southgate has a number of decisions to make, including probably the most pressing question for the national team, who will start in goal this summer? It really is a tough decision, I do not envy Southgate, but I thought maybe I could help him out by attempting to break down some of the potential names we could be seeing on the back of the number 1 shirt in Russia.

Joe Hart

How likely is he to start?

Joe Hart is currently England’s most experienced goalkeeper and quite frankly, that is appalling, while I do not dislike Joe Hart, he is far from a world class goalkeeper. Hart currently cannot hold down the number one spot at struggling side West Ham and so to see him starting at the World Cup would be outrageous, huge amounts of negative backlash would be sure to follow from fans of the national team.

Despite this, I do think that Joe Hart will go to the World Cup in the summer, due to the amount of experience he possesses; I believe it would be beneficial to have him around the young goalkeepers, although I do not believe that experience alone should be enough for him to start, due to his woeful current form.

Having said all of this, I do not think it would be as catastrophic as some people are making out, should Hart play at the World Cup, it would require him to find his form VERY quickly, however, I think the talent is in there, many tend to forget how many good seasons he had at Manchester City and only remember the mistakes, this is a man who has won the Premier League Golden Glove four times, a joint record with Petr Cech.

Overall, I think Hart could find himself being more useful on the bench at the World Cup and I believe he’ll make the trip; I’d rate his chances of actually starting at around 5/10.

Key Stats:

England Caps: 75

17/18 Premier League Appearances: 15

17/18 Clean Sheets: 3

Overall PL Appearances: 317

Overall PL Clean Sheets: 122

Jordan Pickford

How likely is he to start?

Pickford looks to be a fine young talent, impressing during a miserable season at Sunderland earned him a move away and now, despite Everton having a concerning season, Pickford has once again been a glimmer of hope. Continuous solid performances have seen him make his England debut and I think that most people would be happy to see him start in the summer.

Pickford does have his flaws though, his style of play is quite timid and any criticism he receives is often that he isn’t more of a commanding presence in the area, which could be quite an issue in an England team that is struggling to find some kind of identity. However, Pickford is a young goalkeeper, he needs experience to perfect this area of his game and his quality as a shot stopper speaks for itself, which is why I wouldn’t really be worried should Pickford start this summer.

I think Pickford will grow to be a very reliable goalkeeper, he needs to be given a chance on the international stage, Southgate is in a terrific position to give him this opportunity and I think he likely will, I’d rate Pickford’s chances at starting at the World Cup around 9/10.

Key Stats:

England Caps: 2

17/18 Appearances: 31

17/18 Clean Sheets: 7

Overall PL Appearances: 62

Overall PL Clean Sheets: 11

Jack Butland

How likely is he to start?

Butland and Pickford are quite hard to separate; they are both talented goalkeepers who specialise in the shot-stopping aspect of their game. There is a case to be made that Butland’s performances are more significant due to just how poor Stoke have been this season, having just been relegated from the top flight, so to be as good as he is, with all of this on his mind whilst relying on a inexplicably nervy defence is some feat.

Butland’s biggest flaw is his style of play, however, it is almost the polar opposite of why Pickford’s main weakness is his approach as Butland isn’t timid, he plays very aggressively, he often gets ahead of himself and can be too brave which can then be exploited. An own goal and a woeful error against Leicester City to his name this season would certainly be cause for a little more worry should Butland start this summer.

Having the guidance and support I’m sure he’d receive from the squad this summer, I’m sure Butland could keep his head and put in a good shift for England, but due to the fact he really does have a mistake in him, I’d rate his chance of starting at around 7/10.

Key Stats:

England Caps: 6

17/18 Appearances: 28

17/18 Clean Sheets: 5

Overall PL Appearances: 70

Overall PL Clean Sheets: 19

Nick Pope

How likely is he to start?

Nick Pope has had a tremendous breakthrough season, keeping clean sheets in around a third of his games while playing for a mid-table side is incredible, it really is, I don’t believe Pope gets enough credit, even though I know he already receives an enormous amount of praise, he just deserves even more, simply incredible. Every one though Burnley’s season would crash and burn in the wake of Tom Heaton’s injury, but Pope soon put those fears to bed.

However, Pope only made his Premier League debut this season and has never been capped for England, so we are yet to see how he might fair in a “big game”. I personally feel that too much emphasis is put on the world cup and that in fact from an outside perspective facing teams in the Premier League such as this Manchester City side is probably just as daunting as facing most nations in the world at the moment and considering how well he played against that side, I’d be perfectly happy should Pope get the chance to play in the Summer. Although, the World Cup is the biggest competition in football and the pressure that comes with that has been known to overwhelm many capable players and having never played at the World Cup myself, it’s hard to tell exactly what effect this might have.

Unfortunately the real lack of experience here is what makes me think that Pope may well not even make the trip to Russia, so I have to rate his chance of a start at around 4/10.

Key Stats:

England Caps: 0

17/18 Appearances: 27

17/18 Clean Sheets: 10

Overall PL Appearances: 27

Overall PL Clean Sheets: 10

Wildcard: Tom Heaton

How likely is he to start?

This is a long shot, but I thought it might be fun to include an outsider and it is worth noting that on recent performances Southampton’s Alex McCarthy also deserves a shout, but regardless of how well he has performed, given the time frame and the fact that his side have feared relegation I just see there being no way he could make it in, even if he is one of the main reasons I believe Southampton will stay up. So Heaton get this wildcard pick because had he not suffered an injury setback early on in the season, he’d debatably be my top choice. The Burnley captain has been terrific in his time with the club; he’s been a massive part of Burnley’s dependable defence, a leader and terrific shot-stopper.

Heaton completed his first full 90-minutes of the year on 26th March 2018 in an Under-23s match, 6 months since his injury against Crystal Palace and only 3 months before the start of the World Cup, which is the main reason this is so unlikely.  However, there is still some season left, maybe he could make once last push, after all, stranger things have happened.

The lack of game time and the fact that his understudy is featured on this list after making himself un-droppable in Heaton’s unfortunate absence have probably ruined his chances of reaching a World Cup, however, due to his ability, there are certainly worse option, even given the circumstances. I’d rate his chances of making the trip around 2/10.

Key Stats:

England Caps: 3

17/18 Appearances: 4

17/18 Clean Sheets: 0

Overall PL Appearances: 77

Overall PL Clean Sheets: 20

Who Makes The Squad?

In a perfect world, Nick Pope would be rewarded for his terrific performances and would be on the plane, however, I fear he is likely to be left at home in favour of Hart’s experience. I personally think that Hart does not deserve to be in this World Cup squad, but taking three goalkeepers who have all never been to a major tournament is a massive risk and one that really does not need to be taken, two goalkeepers will be given their chance, I am sure of it and they look set to be Pickford and Butland. One last shred of hope for Nick Pope’s chances comes at the cost of Jack Butland’s, given that Stoke have just been relegated, it could give Gareth Southgate something to think about, although, I do think that Southgate trusts Butland and so the chance is still slim.

Pickford, Butland and Hart, will likely be the three goalkeepers selected and my bet is that Pickford gets the “nod” in England’s opener against Tunisia.

 

 

 

photo credit: Leftism/Phill <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/56673912@N00/2856483700″>Nike T90 Spyne Pro</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

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