Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughRoad to World Cup - England’s goalkeeper crisis - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Road to World Cup - England’s goalkeeper crisis - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Road to World Cup – England’s goalkeeper crisis

Ever since David Seaman misjudged Ronaldinho’s free-kick in 2002, it seems like the England number one has been a cursed position. David James’ rash goalkeeping led to Denmark putting four past England in 2004. His replacement Paul Robinson was solid for a while, before his form-slipped between the sticks and was eventually replaced in 2007 after his air kick against Croatia. Up-stepped Scott Carson, only to be embarrassed in the return fixture against Croatia in 2008, but at least the stage wasn’t as global as when Robert Green let Clint Dempsey’s strike creep into the net in the 2010 World Cup.

It seemed when Joe Hart came of age and made the transition to the first team all of England’s problems were solved. At last we had a decent young goalkeeper, who is assured enough to not make any of these silly mistakes. Hart had a great shot-stopping ability, a commanding presence in the box and good-kicking ability, plus the experience of being the goalkeeper for Premiership champions Manchester City.

However if Hart is best England have, fans should be wary. The 26-year-old is seen as a good keeper, but in reality he may just be the best of a bad bunch from a league that is increasingly dominated by foreign goalkeepers. Every ‘keeper makes mistakes, but Hart has shown that he regularly has a mistake in him. He has been to blame for conceding costly goals against Blackburn and Leicester City in the past, but this campaign Hart’s form seems to have regressed at an alarming rate for both club and country. Hart failed to handle a cross against Manchester United that allowed Robin van Persie to score, was out of position when Adam Johnson rifled a shot past him and failed to assemble a wall correctly which led to Real Madrid scoring from a free kick.

Internationally England’s poor overall performance against Montenegro took some of the heat away from Hart, who very nearly committed a monumental error when he fumbled Mirko Vucinic’s shot between his legs. The brilliance of Zlatan Ibrahimovic won the headlines in a recent friendly against Sweden, but the PSG striker’s amazing overhead kick could have been avoided if Hart had better positioning.

But worryingly, there seems to be nobody to challenge Hart to the number one spot. Fabio Capello often complained about the lack of strength in depth of England’s goalkeepers, and it seems the problem is now more apparent than ever, however the crisis has been hardly documented. In England’s last squad Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster was given a call-up. The 25-year-old is a promising keeper, but it shows just how far-afield Hodgson has to look. His almost namesake, Ben Foster, has been a steady number two for years and has been a consistent goalkeeper for West Bromwich Albion. But would you have confidence in his ability between the sticks if Hart was injured in 2014?

It is also worth noting just how far Hodgson has to look down the league table to find another English goalkeeper. Even Jack Butland has been called up recently. Take nothing away from the ability of the 20-year-old, but it is worrying that a goalkeeper who has only played in the Championship or lower is so close to the number one jersey. Experience counts for a goalkeeper, especially on the biggest stage of all.

Being a World Cup season next campaign, England’s goalkeepers will be expected to raise their game to make the final 23 man squad. One hopes they do, because at present history looks like repeating itself again. Let us hope it does not.

Will Mata