There was a time, not all that long ago, when England’s goalkeeping pool was looking a little dry.
At Euro 2004, Sven-Goran Eriksson included David James, Paul Robinson and Ian Walker within his ranks, while at the World Cup finals two years later an uncapped Scott Carson took the place of Walker.
Even at the 2010 event, James was still hanging around at the age of 39, while Rob Green endured a tournament to forget and Joe Hart was considered to be one for the future.
The Manchester City man has now fulfilled his obvious potential, becoming the undisputed number one for club and country – with 50 caps to his name at just 28 years old.
His emergence was most welcome, but he does now face the level of competition that should help to keep him on his toes and fend off any hint of complacency.
Green has become one of the more reliable shot-stoppers in the country, despite suffering relegation with Queens Park Rangers this season, while Ben Foster is another to have responded positively to inconsistencies of the past to become a key man at West Bromwich Albion.
Then there is the new breed to be taken into account, with Fraser Forster having built upon his successes with Celtic at Southampton to surge into the back-up position for England, while Jack Butland is only 22 but already has a senior cap to his name, is skipper of an U21 side heading for the European Championships this summer and could be about to see his first-team path cleared at Stoke City.
Roy Hodgson suddenly has a wealth of options at his disposal, with former England international Dave Beasant delighted to see the Three Lions boasting such strength in depth.
Beasant – who was speaking on behalf of Vauxhall, the England team sponsor – told HITC Sport during a phone interview: “We have got some very good goalkeepers there. In the future you have got Butland, who has been plying his trade not as often as he would probably have liked, but there is a chance that (Asmir) Begovic might move on and he might be given the first-team role there.
“There was the unfortunate injury for Fraser Forster, and we’re not sure as to the length of time that he will be out, but Rob Green has been performing fantastically in a struggling side. Sometimes you can look better in a struggling side, although you do let more goals in. But we have got a good crop of keepers at the moment.”
It is not just between the sticks that England have seen their options increase, though, with the emergence of the likes of Nathaniel Clyne at the back, Fabian Delph in midfield and Harry Kane up front helping Hodgson’s men to tread a thus far faultless path towards Euro 2016.
There is, however, still plenty of room for improvement, with the Three Lions yet to really be tested in their qualifying campaign and aware that they must work on areas such as ball retention and creativity in the final third if they are to challenge in France next summer.
Beasant, who went to the 1990 World Cup finals, added: “If we weren’t faultless in the qualifiers I think alarm bells would be ringing because the group we’ve got is one that you would expect to go through no problems at all.
“I think Roy will be looking to rotate the squad in the next few games and he will be starting to look at playing a few of those on the fringes. There are a lot of players now that are starting to stake a claim.”
England’s next outing should offer more of an examination of their credentials, as they face Republic of Ireland in a friendly contest in Dublin on June 7, before returning to European Championship duty a week later against Slovenia.
As Beasant suggests, Hodgson is likely to shuffle his pack for those fixtures, with the Three Lions looking to add even greater depth to their talent pool by having called upon the services of the previously untested Tom Heaton, Jamie Vardy and Charlie Austin.
Dave Beasant was visiting Gordon Saunders Goalkeeping as part of the Vauxhall Football Youth Programme in partnership with Tustain Motors. For more news, views and competitions go towww.vauxhallfootball.co.uk