Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini says that Joe Hart needs “love” as he aims to return to form. A series of errors and loss of form has placed the spotlight firmly on Hart as England prepare for the two matches that will decide England’s World Cup destiny. Manager Roy Hodgson must decide whether to bow to a growing swell of opinion and consider dropping Hart or keep faith in the goalkeeper who, until very recently, was seen as an automatic choice between England’s posts.
The timing of this speculation could not be worse for England and manager Roy Hodgson wasted no time in quashing speculation surrounding Hart’s place in the team by confirming he will start in goal for both of these crucial games. Whether Hodgson’s decision is seen as an act of decisiveness or seen as being in denial to the realty of Hart’s poor form depends on the results England achieve.
Hart’s place in the team will be saved thanks to the lack of goalkeeping options. The alternative choice is former Newcastle Utd goalkeeper and current Celtic goalie Fraser Forster, who has all the physical and technical skills necessary but is untested and uncapped at international level. This almost forces Hodgson’s hand. It would be a brave and probably reckless decision to drop an established international goalkeeper and replace him with an uncapped, albeit talented, rookie.
Hodgson commented in an interview that, “The players who have the most experience are the ones who have to make certain that they deserve it and that they are worthy of it in these two games. Then we’ll see what Fraser can do.” This comment suggests that Hodgson is likely to want to blood Forster as the obvious alternate to Hart. It is a stunning admission from him that England only have one goalkeeper to turn to in important matches at present. It is vital that Forster and third choice goalkeeper John Ruddy are given some match experience to ensure that England have adequate cover in the position if the number one choice suffers either an injury or loss of form.
Roy Hodgson’s job is to pick the best players for England and there must be a decision to make in every position. Hodgson must now hope Hart rises to the occasion, taking advantage of the fact there is not yet a viable alternative. Unfortunately this places an uncomfortable question mark in a position that has previously proved decisive at important moments in the past. It also only papers over the cracks of the fragility within the England squad in the goalkeeping position.