In the last of my pre-season assessments of the England squad, I’m looking at the goalies. For the first time since David Seaman & Nigel Martyn vied for the No1 shirt there’s positive competition for the jersey, here are the contenders;
1. Jack Butland
So unlucky to pick up that long term injury in Germany. Finally back to full fitness Butland must be the favourite to start in September if he shows the sort of form he illustrated on his international return against the French. Butland has looked outstanding since joining Stoke with an unflappable temperament complementing the great saves.
2. Joe Hart
Since acquiring the gloves in 2010 Hart finally has genuine challengers in Butland & Pickford. His form over the last year has been patchy at best with a hit and miss loan spell at Torino following on from his awful showing at Euro 2016. Now looking to a fresh start at West Ham he’ll get lots of practice on the seasoner opener at Old Trafford. Clearly needs to cut out the mistakes that have blighted an often spectacular career (remember his performances against Brazil & Barca?) You should before writing him off.
3. Jordan Pickford
Rose from the Sunderland reserves to £30 million ‘keeper in 1 season, some rise! A good Euros with the under 21s enhanced his reputation further and a first cap is beckoning. Spectacular saves (he got plenty of practice on Wearside last season!) and excellent distribution skills are his strengths, a lack of height may be a concern. Looking forward to seeing his first cap.
4. Tom Heaton
Not capped until hitting 30, Heaton’s call up was well earned after emerging and staying with Burnley. His nervy performance in Paris suggests he’ll only rise to being a squad player rather than true Number 1, but consistent club excellence will keep others on their toes.
5. Fraser Foster
Endured a tough 2016/17 campaign at Southampton but Forster’s experienced enough to bounce back. Has an excellent Champions League campaign from his Celtic days on the CV and an upturn in form could see him challenge for the No1 slot. But a poor campaign will see giant ‘keeper fall out of contention.
6. Ben Foster
It says something positive about England’s option that Foster went to the last World Cup as the number 2 and through no fault of his own is now relegated to 6th choice. At 34 has probably had his last cap but still in with a shout.
7. Freddie Woodman
The Under 20’s World Cup final hero will be in the Under 21s this season. Will probably require another loan spell before taking over as Newcastle number one. Unlikely to go to the World Cup unless someone picks up a late injury (it worked for Jack Butland in 2012).