FEATURE: England’s road to Russia – The Goalkeepers.

Joe Hart went into Euro 2016 as England’s undisputed number 1 – though he repaid the nation by letting Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s tame shot through his grasp as England were humiliated by Iceland.

Here and now, in 2017, Hart remains our first choice. But following his mistakes against Iceland, and following his acrimonious exile from Manchester City, the likes of Fraser Forster and Jack Butland are getting increased backing to usurp him.

Who will go?

A little known but well disputed FIFA rule states that world cup squads must contain three goalkeepers. Article 26.3 of FIFA’s world cup regulations means that despite only three of 371 world cup squads using all three keepers, a nation is required to take two backups.

World Cup 2014

Joe Hart, Ben Foster and Fraser Forster went to Brazil. Joe Hart was firmly cemented as our number one; playing in the losses against Italy and Uruguay, Ben Foster played in the 0-0 dead rubber against Costa Rica while Fraser Forster failed to make an appearance.

It is rare that the make-up of a goalkeeping three will be so publicly scrutinised, but England have six goalkeepers with high hopes of making the plane.

Joe Hart (West Ham United, 71 caps)

As Hart has been forced out of City by Pep Guardiola, faith has remained in him to provide England’s last line of defence. He repaid Gareth Southgate’s faith with a world class save to rescue a point against Slovenia. But after failing to impress at Torino and since moving to West Ham, can he expect to get to Russia?

Fraser Forster (Southampton, 7 caps)

Having made his name with Celtic, Forster has been a mainstay of the England squad for the last 4 years. That time has been spent as Hart’s deputy, but his record and experience around the squad means he is well placed.

What will worry him is that over the June international break, Tom Heaton and Jack Butland were given a half each against France, the Southampton stopper watching on unused. It remains to be seen if this indicates Southgate’s preferences, but Forster would rather have been playing regardless.

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Tom Heaton (Burnley, 3 caps)

After making the most saves in the Premier League in 2016/17, Tom Heaton has deservedly kept his place in England’s top three keepers. He was unfortunate against France, saving two goalbound efforts only to see the rebounds turned in.

There is a strong case for the Man United academy graduate. It is difficult to argue against him being the best natural shot stopper.

Realistically the only thing weighing him down is that he plays for a club that will not be challenging in the top half. If United are unable to keep David De Gea, I would love to see Heaton return to Old Trafford, if it happens he will be on the plane.

Jack Butland (Stoke City, 5 caps)

It seems that Jack Butland has been around for ages, having broken onto the scene making his international debut in 2012. Having overcome a serious ankle injury, he is now settled at Stoke and an assured half against France in June suggests he is likely to be in Gareth Southgate’s plans.

At only 24, Butland has potential for the future, but tournament football is about finding the best a country can offer, is Butland the best yet?

Outside bets:

Jordan Pickford (Everton, 0 caps)

Having spent £25 million on the former Sunderland man, Everton are hoping he can replicate his form and help the toffees to the champions league. With no caps, he is an outside bet to go to Russia, but his price tag may outweigh his experience.

Ben Foster (West Brom, 8 caps)

West Brom keeper Foster has been on England’s radar for any years but has failed to nail down a spot. Having played in the last world cup, keeping a clean sheet in the dead rubber against Costa Rica, an outstanding season may yet bring him back into contention.

The GK’s at Southgate’s disposal are of indisputable quality, though which defenders could be lining up for England at 2018’s Russia World Cup? 

Written by Sam Hanys.

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