Roy, rejoice: Joe Hart actually has three proper rivals for the England shirt

For years Joe Hart has coasted along while the likes of Rob Green, Scott Carson and even Frankie Fielding made up the numbers. But with Euro 2016 looming, Felix Keith says he's got more competition than ever before... 

NEWS Drinkwater and Sturridge make England squad

Joe Hart

Why he should play...

The 28-year-old has been the undisputed man between the posts ever since the last Euros in 2012. Although largely unchallenged, Hart has been the outstanding candidate for good reason: e is decisive in his actions, spreads himself well in one-on-ones and has excellent shot-stopping reactions.

Hart is also a fierce competitor (perhaps too much so, in the opinion of the poor Brazilian ball boy in Manaus). He has strong leadership qualities and isn’t afraid to be vocal to those in front of him – a useful attribute on the big occasions.  

Joe Hart

Hart's England role has rarely been under threat in recent years

With international fixtures coming around fairly infrequently, fans are generally reminded of his qualities sporadically for Manchester City. It hasn’t been a particularly standout season so far, but Hart has kept 13 Premier League clean sheets so far despite a constantly shifting defence. He has done little to suggest his powers are on the wane as he enters what are traditionally regarded as a goalkeeper’s peak years.

Why he shouldn't...

If the national team is a meritocracy being picked on recent form alone, not past glories, then it could be argued Hart isn’t an automatic choice

Much will depend on the remainder of the season, but it would take a series of catastrophic errors to displace Hart from England’s starting XI. His recent form hasn't been too hot, and if the national team was a meritocracy picked on recent form alone and not past glories, then it could be argued that Hart isn’t an automatic choice. So far in the Premier League he has only been forced to make an average of just over two saves per game for City. With little to do every weekend, is he still the best England have to offer? 

Fraser Forster

Why he should play...

The giant Northumberland keeper returned from the best part of 10 months out with a serious knee injury in January and immediately hit his stride. It took until his seventh appearance since returning with Southampton to concede a goal, and although this stems from a well-organised defence in front of him, it also shows his influence. It’s a small sample pool, but this isn’t just a hot streak – Forster has been threatening such performances for years.

Forster England

Forster's return from injury has been impressive

Anyone unconvinced by the 28-year-old's immense presence in goal should watch the highlights of the Saints’ miraculous 0-0 draw with Arsenal at the Emirates on February 2. Forster made a whopping 11 saves, keeping out Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott with his gigantic wingspan.

Roy Hodgson is a loyal manager, but if Forster’s impressive league streak continues, will he consider the Saints man as a viable No.1? England's set of friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands might tell us more. 

Why he shouldn’t...

He’s just returned from a ruptured patellar tendon and it may be too soon to throw him in behind a remodelled back four so close to a major tournament. Despite his authority on the pitch, Forster has limited experience of high-level pressure. He's still only played 36 Premier League games for Southampton, and the 13 goals he conceded in six Champions League games with Celtic in 2013/14 can’t have imbued calmness and clear thinking under pressure.

Jack Butland

Why he should play...

Butland is now fulfilling his status as the perennial ‘next big thing’. He’s long been touted as a goalkeeper full of potential, but fans are finally seeing why first hand in the Premier League. The 23-year-old has played for England through every age group, first turning out for the U16s in 2008. He caused quite a stir back then among scouts and now could be his time to shine on the big stage.

Jack Butland

Butland looks likely to add to his three England caps before too long

His path was cleared at Stoke at the start of the season when Asmir Begovic moved to Chelsea, and Butland has grabbed the opportunity to show off. He currently leads the way in the Premier League for saves made (10 more than anyone else) and is set to be rewarded with a new five-year contract. 

Goalkeeping is generally a 30-year-old’s game but Butland has dismissed that stereotype with eye-catching saves and near domination of a Britannia Stadium penalty area generally packed with giants. His talent was there for all to see in December when he put on a one-man exhibition, making eight saves to secure a 0-0 draw with West Ham. 

Why he shouldn’t...

Rushing such a talent to the fore may do more harm than good in the long run – a poor performance could dent confidence needlessly

Butland is one for the future. He may be better off learning the trade for a few more years before making the step up to become England’s automatic pick. Rushing such a talent to the fore may do more harm than good in the long run – a poor performance could dent confidence needlessly. He is experiencing the best route possible at present under Mark Hughes’s guidance at Stoke, and that should perhaps continue unhindered for a while longer.

Ben Foster

Why he should play...

Like the similarly named Forster, West Brom's goalkeeper has recently returned from a serious knee injury sustained at the end of last season. And while his return has been less dramatic, the 32-year-old – to his credit – has conceded just two goals in his first four appearances.

Foster is a reliable, if unspectacular, goalkeeper who has been around the national team setup for a surprisingly long time. He hasn't made Hodgson's latest squad, though, despite being a favourite of the man who managed him at the Baggies in 2011/12.

All of these factors work in Foster’s favour. His longevity and experience also helps, and if he were given the chance then Hodgson – who can be prone to conservative decision making – would know what to expect.

Why he shouldn’t...

It’s a mark of England’s current strength that Foster isn't among the country’s top three goalkeepers. He’s certainly a dependable deputy, but without injury striking he shouldn’t be needed. The Baggies goalkeeper has made just eight appearances for the Three Lions since 2007.

Ben Foster

Foster has been on the fringes of the England squad for several years

Manchester United liked what they saw when they bought him in 2005, but consecutive loans to Watford and a subsequent move to Birmingham City told of a player finding his level. This was further signalled when he later announced his retirement from international football in 2011.

Even if Tony Pulis’s side park 10 men behind the ball for the next nine Premier League games and Foster doesn't concede, he won’t trouble Hart’s position. 

More features every day on