Does Roy Have the Hart to Pick Forster?
By Johnny Connelly
Manchester City and England’s no.1, Joe Hart, added to his CV of calamity at the weekend by dropping another high profile clanger to gift Chelsea a late winner in the English Premier League.
All the while, Celtic’s man between the sticks continues to cruise through matches at a domestic level, and attract plaudits from all over Europe, most recently for his heroics against AC Milan, Barcelona, and Ajax.
What’s wrong with this picture? Well, for starters, Forster still seems to be about as far away from an England cap as ever.
The question is why? Surely it’s not a simple case of ignorance towards a top athlete because of the league he’s playing in?
Roy Hodgson’s England side have been uninspiring, although admittedly still churning out results in the qualifiers. Lapses in concentration from Joe Hart have historically put England under pressure, and given his current form, is it wise to trust a shaky pair of hands going into Rio 2014?
Who could forget his blunder against Scotland just a few months ago? His fumble against Southampton back in February? His corner flap to give Cardiff their first win over City in August? Or his misjudgement against Bayern Munich earlier in the month?
Any notion of replacing Hart was unthinkable last season, but suddenly the recurring errors have led to more than a few whispers of a less than guaranteed no 1 England jersey and on club form even Manuel Pellegrini is fighting to come up with excuses for Hart in the City goal.
In terms of realistic options for England, they have but three. John Ruddy, Ben Foster, or Fraser Forster. Three top goalkeepers, that much is clear, but for some reason Forster feels furthest away from the no.1 jersey.
There’s only so many times Forster can come up trumps in Champions League games, only to be fed lines like “we’re impressed with Fraser, and are watching his development.” Soon a time will come when the England manager has to come off the fence and make a call on his ability.
To choose Forster above any of the other potential suitors for the England no.1 jersey would be a brave decision. Elements of the English media and support believe their league to be the best in the world, so much so that to opt for a ‘keeper playing in Scotland would seemingly verge on an insult.
Forster has a proven big game mentality, and at just 25 years of age, has a good decade of top level football in him. Neil Lennon backs his goalkeeper to the hilt, and openly admits, “it’ll be impossible to keep the player here when he’s performing like that”.
Spanish star Xavi has also spoken of his admiration for the 6ft 7inch goalkeeper. The Barca talisman said: ‘I can’t say that I watch him every week – but when we have played Celtic he has shown that he is a world-class goalkeeper.
‘From what I have seen he has everything to succeed at a club like Barcelona – and with his Champions League performances for Celtic I am sure there will be more than one big club interested in him.’
All interest now turns to England’s upcoming friendlies with Chilie and Germany in November. The squad will be confirmed in the next few days, and given the non-competitive nature of the fixtures, Hodgson will never have a better chance to call-up or feature Forster, with little or nothing at stake.
Brave decisions by managers can be the difference between success and failure. Will Hodgson be brave enough to rise above the false stigma of the Scottish game to select Forster? We’ll find out soon…