England may have all-but-mathematically secured their place at the 2018 World Cup already but this week’s qualifiers against Slovenia and Lithuania will still create a spotlight of scrutiny over Gareth Southgate’s side, with the goalkeeping department arguably the most obvious point of contention.
Joe Hart’s a solid and experienced option with 73 caps under his belt already, but during nine years of involvement in the national team the West Ham loanee hasn’t exactly uprooted trees – although that criticism can be applied to the Three Lions in general – and the confusion over the direction his club career is headed only creates further doubts over whether he can remain England’s long-term No.1.
There’s an exciting cohort of English glovesmen gaining ground behind him ahead of the World Cup in Russia next summer, not least including Southampton’s monolith of a shot-stopper Fraser Forster, who was knocking on the No.1 door rather relentlessly during his first two seasons at St. Mary’s until a long-term injury in March 2015.
Since then, Forster’s struggled to rekindle the same level of form, but even when not at his peak, there is one obvious positive to the six-cap international; the sheer scale of his 6 foot 7 frame. Of course, being a top-class goalkeeper is about much more than where you stack up on a measuring tape, but Forster’s size always gives him a chance of being in the right place at the right time, simply because he eats up so much of the goal, and connecting a flailing limb even if he’s not at his most agile.
That presence always ensures a level of competence to his game and so far this season, it’s been hard to argue with the former Celtic man’s returns, three clean sheets from a possible seven and the joint-third most saves of any Premier League goalkeeper, 18, alongside fellow Englishman Jack Butland. The standout difference between the two, however, apart from a few inches, harks back to Forster’s prior career at Parkhead, where he made 35 appearances for Celtic in Europe. Butland’s yet to experience football on the continental stage.
At this point in time, though, Forster has his work cut out if he’s to usurp Hart from the No.1 berth by the time next summer comes around. But who do you think should be England’s first-choice goalkeeper at the World Cup? Let us know by voting below…