Joe Hart may have started in England’s 1-0 win over Slovenia on Thursday night, but there is a growing belief that the 30-year-old’s reign as the first-choice keeper is under serious threat.

Standing at 6’5, Hart’s presence inside the box has always been immense but an alarming number of errors have crept into his game over the years.

An ever-present in the Manchester City goal, Hart was part of the squad that won the Premier League twice (2012 and 2014) and the FA Cup once (2011) but Pep Guardiola’s arrival at the Etihad effectively ended his time at City.

Hart was shunted out on loan to Serie A side Torino where he was patchy, making world-class saves one week, committing bloopers the next.

Returning to City in the summer, Hart was told to find a new club after the Citizens splashed the cash for Ederson and a season-long loan to West Ham has followed. 

The Hammers look set to struggle to stay afloat in the Premier League and will struggle to keep too many clean-sheets, another reason for Hart’s critics to call for Gareth Southgate to start other options.

For the World Cup is less than a year away and the England manager is under pressure to give other keepers a chance, all whom have starred for their respective clubs in recent seasons.
So who are the four men who are jostling to become their nation’s No.1? The Statesman takes a look:

Jack Butland (Stoke City)

 

Jack Butland, England Football Team, Training, Joe Hart, Stoke City FC, Premier League
Butland (R) displaced Asmir Begovic at Stoke, can he do the same to Hart at England? (Photo: AFP)

A product of the Birmingham City Academy, the 6’4 Butland is perhaps the strongest contender.

Currently part of Mark Hughes’ new-look Stoke City side, the 24-year-old has represented England from the U-16 level to the senior level.

In fact, Butland has the unique distinction of having participated at the 2012 London Olympics, where he further cemented his status as one to watch out for.

However, disaster struck in 2015 as he suffered an ankle fracture and his return was repeatedly pushed back as he underwent further surgery in a bid to get rid of the problem once and for all.

As a result, he virtually missed the entire 2016-17 season and while he has been fit ever since, Butland has a massive 2017-18 season ahead of him for the next couple of months are all he has to win over Southgate.

Fraser Forster (Southampton)

 

Fraser Forster, Southampton FC, Premier League, England Football Team, Joe Hart
Fraser Forster (L) has emerged as a serious contender to Hart’s throne, but will the towering Southampton shot-stopper step up to the challenge? (Photo: AFP)

Standing at over 6’7 tall, there are no prizes for guessing Forster’s strength. The 29-year-old famous outing for Celtic against Barcelona is still discussed vividly, such was his impenetrable showing against the mighty Blaugrana.

Since moving to Southampton in 2014, Forster’s meteoric rise seemed to have no signs of stopping until the Hexham native suffered a serious knee injury in 2015 and was ruled out for the remainder of the 2015-16 season.

Forster successfully mounted a comeback, ahead of time for good measure, but somehow the feeling persists that he is not the same player as he was pre-injury.
His ball-playing abilities have long been a weakness but now the hulking shot-stopper isn’t as aggressive as he once was.

Jordan Pickford (Everton)

Jordan Pickford, Everton FC, Premier League, England Football Team
Pickford has impressed many, but could be seen as too green to become England’s No.1 just yet? (Photo: Everton FC)

 

 

Seen as a star for the future, Everton’s £30 million signing (including add-ons) has impressed all and sundry with his displays for Sunderland in their doomed 2016-17 season.

A move to the Toffees followed and while his side are struggling, the 23-year-old Pickford isn’t as he is among the only Everton players who can claim to have performed upto the expected level this season.

The youngest among the keepers, Pickford at 6’1 may not have the sheer physical presence of his competitors but arguably has the finest reflexes of the lot. He’s the only one yet to start for the senior side, having been called up in August but was forced to withdraw due to an injury.

Everton have been poor in recent weeks but should they be able to settle their rocking ship, Pickford’s stock will surely soar and Southgate will find it difficult to ignore calls for his selection.

Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion)

Ben Foster, Premier League, West Bromwich Albion FC, England Football Team
Foster has been a safe and dependable choice for the Baggies, but can he do it for his country? (Photo: West Bromwich Albion FC)

 

 

From the youngest comes the oldest.

Ben Foster retired from England duty once already, but the former Manchester United custodian remains a safe bet at 34.

Packing an impressive 6’4 frame, Foster is extremely consistent and in his seventh season with the Baggies in the Premier League, remains one of the most underrated keepers in the top-flight.

After the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Foster hasn’t played for the Three Lions since then but should the need arise, Foster could be recalled.

Having said that, he is effectively fifth in the pecking order and barring an injury to any of the aforementioned keepers, Foster will be watching next year’s World Cup on a television set somewhere on vacation.