The fallout of England’s exit from the World Cup last Sunday has already lead to much speculation about how the team must change in order to progress.
High up the agenda for most is the introduction of younger players to replace the older, more established names who have failed once more at international level.
Of all the names put forward as part of England’s future there has been universal agreement over who should be England’s next goalkeeper: Joe Hart.
Aged 23, Hart was the second-youngest player in Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad but didn’t see any action in South Africa as third-choice goalkeeper.
However, that is certain to change now with the vast majority of pundits pencilling Hart in as England’s new No 1 and including him in all visions of what England’s team will look like at the 2014 World Cup.
Hart’s competition for the goalkeeping spot in South Africa should now disappear in front of his eyes as he jumps to the head of the queue.
Robert Green started the first match against the USA but produced an absolute howler in letting a weak Clint Dempsey strike creep through his hands and over the line.
Green was replaced in the very next game and Capello’s, along with the English public’s, faith looks likely to have been lost in him.
However, at 30 years old and still young in goalkeeping terms, Green should still feature in the England set-up going forward, albeit as back-up, due to the lack of quality English goalkeepers currently in the game.
David James, who kept goal for England’s last three games in South Africa, will be 40 next month and is due to start the season in the Championship with Portsmouth and should now only be considered for the national side in an absolute emergency.
So with the competition out of the way the road seems clear for Hart to take the No 1 jersey.
Or maybe not.
The worry for Hart will now be whether he will be playing regularly at club level in the coming season.
Having excelled while on loan at Birmingham City last season, Hart will return to Manchester City this summer faced with the challenge of ousting Shay Given from between the posts.
After City were forced into signing Martin Fulop on an emergency loan when Given was injured at the end of last season. Roberto Mancini has spoken of his intention of not letting Hart out on loan again and keeping him at Eastlands.
Hart’s return will further boost the club’s squad strength where the young England ‘keeper will push Given every step of the way as well as providing quality cover in case of any more injuries to the Irish stopper.
Given’s place as No. 1 is not 100 percent certain but he has arguably been Manchester City’s most consistent performed since his signing from Newcastle 18 months ago.
Assuming that he has sufficiently recovered from injury then it will be a big surprise if Given does not keep his place as Mancini’s No. 1 at the start of the new season in August.
So where does this leave Joe Hart?
Rotating goalkeepers is not common practice as it is in other positions.
Carling Cup games and perhaps the odd Europa League appearance is likely to neither impress nor satisfy Hart who was voted the best in his position by his fellow players last season.
Another loan move is not entirely out of the question but this would mean Mancini needing to bring in another goalkeeper to challenge and cover for Given. With Hart already at his disposal this may seem an unnecessary step.
In any case most clubs in the Premier League do not have a new goalkeeper high on their wish lists.
Perhaps the only exception is Arsenal but the chances of Manchester City allowing a hot prospect like Hart to join one of their main rivals for a Champions League spot appear slim at best.
Of course, Mancini need not concern himself overly with the impact of his selection policy on England’s goalkeeping situation, although he will obviously want to keep Hart as happy as possible.
With England looking to rebuild for the future at least one position looked certain, but with Hart’s playing time at club level severely in question it appears that, as usual, nothing will be solved easily for England.