Joe Hart has to be England number one - realistically there is no one else

Wembley England

The Manchester City stopper’s position in the national side has been questioned of late, but is there anyone else better that could start for Roy Hodgson’s side?

Joe Hart has had to endure criticism from the media and fans alike over the last six months, as indifferent performances have seen his place for club and country under scrutiny. At a time in the not-so-distant past, the 26-year-old was widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in Europe and the Premier League, but his stock appears to have dropped drastically of late.

For City, there were rumblings that Manuel Pellegrini was considering dropping Hart after the goalkeeper was less than convincing in the Etihad Stadium side’s 3-1 defeat to Cardiff earlier in the season. This did not happen and Hart has maintained his place, largely due to the fact that there is no ready-made deputy able to step into the breach.

At international level Hart’s position has also reportedly been under threat, with Roy Keane chastising the stopper ahead of England’s clash with Montenegro last night. The former Manchester United man claimed that Hart should have been dropped six months ago and labeled the City man arrogant.

The problem at both club and national level is the same: there are no strong contenders to replace Hart in the side that are up to the task. As such, the argument that the City man should have been dropped at international level is defunct. Even not at his best, Hart is capable of pulling off a top-drawer save – like he did against Montenegro in the 4-1 win at Wembley on Friday.

Of the other contenders to replace him, Norwich stopper John Ruddy is probably the next in line. The Canaries man had a good debut campaign in the top flight, but lacks the experience that the current number one possesses. Ruddy is certainly good enough to play in the Premier League, but whether or not he would command the confidence of the fans at national level remains to be seen.

Other options include Celtic’s Fraser Forster, Jack Butland, Ben Foster and Alex McCarthy. All have potential and could well be top goalkeepers if given a chance consistently, but it is unlikely that the chance will be afforded.

At the moment, with the majority of Premier League sides entrusting foreign goalkeepers, an under-par Hart will still have the impetus to maintain as the national number one for some time to come.

image: © geetarchurchy

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