With the World Cup looming large, England manager Gareth Southgate has several big decisions to make in the coming months. Among them will be who is his No.1 in Russia: Joe Hart or Jack Butland.
Choosing the right man between the sticks is a crucial decision, with the goalkeeper spot arguably among the most important in the team.
Joe Hart is the current owner of the shirt but the debate rages about whether that should be the case. For many, Butland is far more deserving, and it’s an argument that makes a whole lot of sense.
The last 27 shots on target Joe Hart has faced in the league for Torino and West Ham:
17 goals conceded ⚽️
10 saves made ❌
Leaking goals. pic.twitter.com/HSWwQ8lIrk
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 19, 2017
Based solely on performances, Butland should be in the England team ahead of Hart. The manner in which they have started this season provides perfect evidence of why.
Hart finds himself at West Ham on loan after being jettisoned by Manchester City once again. And his start to life at the London Stadium has not been a good one. In two games, he has already conceded seven goals. Three of those were to a Southampton side that hadn’t score in nine hours at home before beating the Hammers.
Indeed, the last 27 shots on target Hart has faced has seen him conceding 17 goals and making just three saves. There’s no denying it, he’s bang out of form.
In contrast, Butland has started the season on fire. In the win over Arsenal last weekend, he was sensational. The Gunners had six shots on target in that game and he was equal to every single one.
The plaudits were plentiful as a result and rightly so. While Hart has been lambasted, Butland has received praise.
Jack Butland's saves, positioning & catching showing why he could be England's No 1 by the World Cup. #STKARS
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) August 19, 2017
Confidence is also a major issue; one of these players is full of it and the other is not. It’s fairly obvious which one Hart is.
The 30-year-old is clearly lacking in confidence at the moment after something of a miserable year. First there was the clear and very public rejection by Pep Guardiola. It would take some player to have not been affected by that. Sadly, it appears Hart has been.
Then there was the loan spell at Torino. But rather than being the relaunch of his career, it has almost killed it off.
His time in Serie A was nothing short of a disaster. The fact that the Torino president publicly said he “didn’t expect so many mistakes” is a clear indication of how things went.
England have suffered before by trying to persist with out of confidence players and it would be a similar scenario with Hart. It is something they cannot afford to do again, especially if they have one eye on the future.
If Southgate is going on current form Pickford, Butland, Alexander-Arnold, Chalobah, Calvert-Lewin should all be getting #England call ups!
— Chris Bottom (@ChrisBottom16) August 22, 2017
Regardless of who you ask it is evident that Hart is the past and Butland is the future. If Gareth Southgate is to stand by his word and be the England manager to give the next generation their chance, now is the time to do so, starting with Butland.
The Stoke keeper will need experience of international football and the upcoming qualifiers are the perfect opportunity to hand them to him.
England have Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia and Lithuania in their next competitive games. They should be winning those games regardless of who is in goal so giving Butland his chance makes perfect sense.
Not only will it give him game time, it will also give him the chance to form a working relationship with the defence in front of him. That could prove crucial moving forward.
If England are to move forward, improve and build for the future then they must start now; replacing Hart with Butland is the logical first step. The Stoke man is playing better, has more confidence and needs the experience of international football.
It’s time to replace the old with the new and replace Joe Hart with Jack Butland for their own good.