Time for this Celtic man to come to our rescue

Fraser Forster

The trials and tribulations of England’s number one Joe Hart have been clear for all to see. A series of high profile gaffes have riddled the stoppers recent Manchester City career, and if midweek was anything to go by it looks set to continue.

If Hodgson is going to pick on form rather than reputation then selecting Celtic’s Fraser Forster is a must. The SPFL stalwart has been imperious for the Scottish giants, and another performance on the highest stage of all midweek has allowed Forster to throw himself well into contention for the national side.

His displays on the continent have garnered the Celtic man an array of admirers. Speaking on the subject of the England goalkeeping jersey to the Sun, legend Gianluigi Buffon had the following to say:

“I think it is time now for England to give Forster a chance. He has shown again in the Champions League what he is capable of. He made some big saves against Barcelona.”

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“He has proved he can handle the big games and the pressure situations. Now it is time to test himself at the international level. If the England coach is picking his team on form then Fraser is his only option.”

High praise from someone held in such regard in goalkeeping and indeed footballing circles. Buffon is right and for me this decision is anything but a gamble, it is prudent selection. Forster has proven himself consistently in Champions League over the last couple of seasons, and his ability to deal with the rigours of SPFL physicality will hold him in good stead for the upcoming games against Poland and Montenegro. A save percentage of 80.9% for Forster compared to 74.4% for Hart between 2010 and 2013 would according to Bloomberg’s statistics point to a need for change in goal. Do we temper this slightly because the Premier League is more competitive? I’m not convinced personally.

For me the bigger risk is continuing this indulgence of a player clearly painfully out of form. What does it say to Joe Hart and indeed other players when someone like Hodgson continue to persist with him through such dark times. Some may argue it shows long-term faith but personally it falls woefully short of the meritocratic ethics we should be instilling in our national side.

I still believe that Joe Hart is the long-term England number one, but for him to get to that level he needs to pushed by those in and around him. Giving Forster a chance will take Hart out of the spotlight and firing line whilst ensuring he is given the necessary kick to re-find his best form.

Maintaining faith is a gamble for Hodgson in itself, especially considering how crucial the upcoming games will be for England’s World Cup hopes. On current form I just cannot see Forster doing any worse than what Hart has done of late.

There may be a school of thought that would suggest that giving a goalkeeper his debut at such a pivotal moment is non-sensical. Defenders and keepers need to strike up a relationship which takes time, something that England do not have at the moment.

This issue is a genuine concern, but England’s finest international stars should be able to deal with it. Considering how shaky communication seems to be between Hart and his defence of late I really don’t see the risk being quite as great as many would make out.

Picking Forster ahead of Hart just sends out all the right messages. The national side do not pick on reputation but performances, the way it should be in my opinion. How can rising stars ever be motivated to impress the national selectors when they know a select few are guaranteed a berth?

The title suggests that the decision to pick Forster would represent a gamble, but personally England’s World Cup charge is more under threat if Hart continues to play.

Forster is high on confidence and riding the crest of a wave, whereas the City man looks a shadow his former self. Dropping him is not only a benefit to England in general but the player himself. People are kidding themselves if they think games against Montenegro and Poland will be easy and the decision over who to play between the sticks could be crucial to whether we qualify or not.

My belief is that Hodgson just doesn’t has the guts to make the changes necessary and this a concern for England as a whole going forward. The safer bet is to play Forster, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the England manager see’s fit to keep the faith with an ailing Hart.

Will this be the decision to cost England a place in Rio?

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