The second half of this season will have one question hanging over it for the English players in the Premier League: Who will feature in Roy Hodgson's World Cup squad?
Next month, Hodgson will name his squad for a friendly against Denmark, and while he will have plenty of key decisions to make in the run-up to Brazil, one of them could be who to play in goal.
At present, Hodgson's first-choice keeper is Joe Hart, a decision that has seemed like a "fait accompli" since his return to the Manchester City side, after a short spell on the bench as Manuel Pellegrini looked to rebuild his keeper's confidence.
However, there are still chinks in the technique of the City keeper, not least in his ability in the air, and he has been lucky on a couple of occasions—most notably against Cardiff recently—to get away with flapping at and missing crosses.
The most obvious alternative to Hart has just reached an impressive milestone. Fraser Forster kept his 11th consecutive clean sheet at the weekend, shutting out St. Mirren to beat a Celtic record set in the 1921/22 season.
The Bhoys keeper is certainly an impressive figure at 6'8" (towering over Hart at a "mere" 6'5") and with remarkable agility for someone of his size, enabling him to make some incredibly impressive saves. His talent is clear, and the one major doubt over Forster is the standard of football he plays given that Celtic are running away with a massively uncompetitive Scottish Premiership. The fact that their big January signing was a striker from League One should tell you plenty about the standard of forwards Forster faces each week.
Indeed, Celtic boss Neil Lennon expects Forster to be moving on relatively soon. He told Mark Guidi of The Daily Record this weekend:
I think there will be something in the summer for him but he seems happy here and content. I wouldn’t be surprised if something happens in the summer or we get offers then.
The trump card Forster has in this respect is that while excelling in Scotland is nothing to get excited about, he has also excelled against some of the best in the world in the Champions League. Forster was superb against Barcelona, so much so that none other than Xavi suggested he could play for the Spanish champions.
He was quoted in Metro by Massimo Marioni as saying:
I think the players all know about the Forster interest – and it is a player we know very well.
I can’t say that I watch him every week – but when we have played Celtic he has shown that he is a world-class goalkeeper.
From what I have seen he has everything to succeed at a club like Barcelona – and with his Champions League performances for Celtic I am sure there will be more than one big club interested in him.
Forster's performances in the world's top club competition show that while he spends most of his time facing substandard opposition, there is no reason to doubt that he could raise his game when against the very best on the planet at the World Cup.
Hart might not have done much to deserve being dropped at the moment, but Hodgson should consider giving Forster another audition in the England goal, and at the very least, he knows he has a very capable deputy for his No. 1 shirt.
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