Gone are the days when keepers as good as Nigel Martyn couldn’t even get a game for England. England’s No. 1 keeper doesn’t play for the any of the top teams in the league anymore, unlike David Seaman. And until the 2009/2010 season, David James was the English first choice keeper. Ironic, given James in his prime didn’t get a game while Seaman and Martyn ruled the roost.
England’s Golden Generation are continuously touted as favourites to clinch their first World Cup since 1966. However Italy and Spain both proved that in this day and age a world class keeper is essential to win a major trophy. Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas would appear in the Top 5 of any Best Goalkeepers List. Can the same be said about England? Hardly.
It is even more worrying for the Three Lions when you consider that their opponents on June 12th, the United States of America have in their ranks one of the best goalkeepers in the Premiership. Tim Howard has time and time again produced outstanding displays for Everton over the past few seasons despite the presence of dinosaurs such as Tony Hibbert in his backline. And when you consider Rio Ferdinand’s current difficulties, a weakness in goal for England could very well be easily exploited.
Fabio Capello isn’t Vincente Del Bosque, that being he doesn’t possess a vast array of talent from which to pick his goalie. However at the end of the day, Fabby will have to pick someone and these are the prime contenders.
Robinson has been playing well this season at Ewood Park. The loss of the England jersey coupled with his removal at White Hart Lane made for a disappointing combo, but Robbo has worked his socks off under Sam Allardyce and looks to have gone a long way to redeeming himself. Long distance shots still catch Robinson out from time to time though, and his defenders haven’t done him too many favours.
It has been argued that Robbo performs well at home with less attention on him, before fumbling and cracking under pressure at international level. While that case might hold some water, it has been a long time since Paul has been tested for England in a big match atmosphere.
One obvious edge that he has is experience. Paul Robinson is the most experienced international keeper available to England. He was No. 1 under both Sven Eriksson and Steve Mclaren, and at least the pressures of international football will not be new to Robbo.
Risky as it may seem, Capello might be well advised to give Robinson a shot.
After all, Robbo’s Blackburn look likely to finish the season in better stead than either James’ Portsmouth or Rob Green’s West Ham. With that in mind, should Rovers improve towards the end of the season Fabby might just get a quietly confident goalie.
A man who once wore gloves referring to himself as “England No. 6”, Rob Green certainly seems to have the faith of Fabio Capello.
Under Eriksson, Green was a regular third choice, back from the time when he was playing for Norwich. However this season has not been one to celebrate for Rob Green. His team have languished at the wrong end of the table for months, and his own form has been patchy at best. No error strewn performances, but there have been signs of shakiness.
Green seems good enough compared to what else the Lions have to offer, and should make England’s 23. However in a year when the keeper’s jersey has been very much up for grabs, his performances do not seem like that of a player seizing the opportunity. Capello’s recent faith in him should see play a big part in the race.
The darkest of dark horses, Ben Foster began the season full of hope and expectation, and when both Edwin Van der Sar and Tomas Kuzscak suffered injuries, it seemed as if the stage was set and ready for young foster to finally stake a grand claim to the England No. 1 jersey.
However it all went south rather quickly, with a particularly prolific blunder in the Manchester derby dealing a critical blow to Foster’s World Cup dream. Kuzscak was quickly restored, and Foster is once again out in the wilderness.
Ben will be fortunate to get on the plane to South Africa, but given England’s crisis in goal he might just squeeze in as a third choice. Barring exceptional circumstances however, don’t expect to see him between the posts in an England jersey anytime soon.
At the time of writing, Hart appears to be an obvious choice. His performances at St Andrews this season have been nothing short of exemplary and he remains a big part of the reason why Birmingham have sustained a push for European football. Hart’s form this season also seems to vindicate Sven Eriksson, who made him his first choice keeper during his short stint at Eastlands.
Hart’s strengths are easy to see; He’s extremely fit and energetic, doesn’t fumble long range efforts and is brave enough to leave his box without being reckless.
However the old adage “form is temporary, class is permanent” seems to resonate with Fabio Capello more than anything else. This is the same manager who wanted to pick Gary Neville for England not too long ago. He values experience at the highest level, and the young Hart does not have that.
Hart’s supporters include the Messiah Alan Shearer, but it remains to be seen if Capello will field a player who has only one cap to his name. Given that Darren Bent was only given an opportunity to feature for England in a rather meaningless match, Joe Hart could just miss out on a Starting 11 place at South Africa, even if he does deserve it. I for one hope he IS in goal come June 12.
As mentioned at the top of the article, 39-year-old James spent the majority of his international career as the back-up back-up keeper to Seaman and Martyn. Even after the duo departed, Steve McLaren opted for Paul Robinson and Scott Carson. Capello has relented though, and named James for his first match.
Many say James’ form with Porstmouth less than two years ago was excellent, as he led the team to an FA Cup victory. However fitness is still a potent enemy and he has only played in one of England’s last eight games. Yet to feature regularly this season, James has a matter of months to prove himself worthy of the No. 1 jersey.
There is every chance he could yet make it as the first choice keeper provided a good run of form comes at the back end of this season. James has more experience than every other English keeper combined, and that factor alone makes him a viable contender in spite of his long term absence.