Roy Hodgson has revealed Joe Hart will not feature between the sticks for England against Chile on Friday, opening the door for either John Ruddy or Fraser Forster to make an impression at Wembley.
“Joe Hart won’t be starting the game tomorrow night, but I’ll let you work out yourself who will,” the England manager told reporters at his pre-match press conference. (BBC)
It was all he had to say about one of his side’s more intriguing personnel controversies coming out of a World Cup qualification campaign in which the Three Lions topped their bracket.
Hart, who conceded just once against Ukraine, Montenegro and Poland in England’s last three matches, has struggled at club level for Manchester City this season and hasn’t played for the Premier League side since his goalkeeping error in a 2-1 loss away to Chelsea in late October.
Costel Pantilimon has since taken over the number one job at Etihad Stadium and has conceded three goals in his four starts for City.
But given that Hodgson didn’t address his goalkeeping situation further, it remains unknown whether the 66-year-old is experiencing the same crisis of confidence as his City counterpart, Manuel Pellegrini, or merely saving Hart for next Tuesday’s match against Germany while providing a bit of experience to one of Ruddy and Forster in the interim.
In speaking to reporters, he seemed to hint at the latter.
“I think in these [friendly] games, I have to take a look at certain players who are knocking at the door,” he said.
But, he added, “I can’t dismiss playing time and an unbeaten record for the chance to give those players who are knocking at the door a chance.” (BBC)
Fully deserving of such an opportunity is Forster, whose Champions League heroics and consistently solid performances in the Scottish Premier League have seen him called into the England squad on six occasions.
“I think he’s a very intelligent boy, and that will stand him in good stead if he is selected to play for England at some stage,” Newcastle boss Alan Pardew told the Mirror earlier this week.
And former England international and current Hibernian manager Terry Butcher, speaking to The Scotsman, added: “To be in the [England] squad in itself is a good achievement. If called upon, you have to take your chance. Certainly, against Barcelona, Fraser was excellent.”
Even Alexis Sanchez, the Barcelona forward who will be looking to find the back of the net for Chile at Wembley, has hailed Forster ahead of the match, telling the Metro, “Fraser is a ‘keeper who is good with his feet. He is a complete player, and it will be difficult to score against him.”
Smart, athletic and tall, even for a goalkeeper, at 6-foot-7, Forster has done everything in his power to get this chance. Now, it’s up to Hodgson.
And, who knows? Perhaps, a standout performance would keep him in the frame for a start against Germany, and beyond.