Gareth Southgate is planning a trip to Turf Moor this Saturday, and that could mean big things for 31-year-old goalkeeper Joe Hart.
The former Manchester City starter and longtime England #1 has fallen out of the setup after a dip in form that led to not only his fall down the England depth chart, but also his exit from the Etihad. After losing his starting spot at City in 2016, a loan move to Italian club Torino was the beginning of the end for Hart’s international job.
Or was it?
Jordan Pickford, who was one of the best goalkeepers at the World Cup this summer, is firmly entrenched in the starting spot. However, there are murky waters surrounding the backup job, and that’s where Hart could find himself back in the mix.
England boss Gareth Southgate has insisted publicly that the position is open for the taking. Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy is expected to be the man Southgate calls upon during the October international break, but that’s nowhere near set in stone. Burnely’s Nick Pope, who served as backup at the World Cup without seeing game action, is out injured for a significant amount of time with a dislocated shoulder. Jack Butland‘s stock has dropped after Stoke City was relegated, and now the Potters toil in the bottom third of the Championship standings. Fulham shot-stopper Marcus Bettinelli was called up in early September, but he did not feature, and the 26-year-old hardly even has the confidence of his own club manager.
So, could Hart earn himself a spot in the rotation? With Pope injured, the 31-year-old has stepped in at Burnley and performed at a decent level despite just a single point for the club through the first five Premier League matches. With few concrete options, it’s possible a familiar face could be back in the England squad.
An injury for Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dele Alli cost him England’s friendly with Switzerland, but are not expected to keep him from Saturday’s high profile Premier League clash against Liverpool.
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England had already called up Demarai Gray (and Ben Chilwell) for the game at Leicester City, so Dele wasn’t really needed for the friendly. Yet there was still concern from Spurs supporters regarding their star 22-year-old.
Gareth Southgate said that Dele suffered a muscle strain against Spain at the weekend, but should be fine for Saturday’s 7:30 a.m. ET contest at Wembley Stadium.
“Alli has just had a minor strain and should be fine for his club at the weekend I would think, but Tuesday’s game will come too quickly,” Southgate said in his pre-match press conference.
Dele has one goal in four matches for Spurs this season, scoring in the PL season opener against Newcastle United. He’ll be a key part of unhinging Liverpool’s deep midfield on Saturday.
Gareth Southgate is a man in demand.
After guiding England to the 2018 World Cup semifinals this summer, Southgate’s current contract with the Three Lions runs through the end of the EURO 2020 tournament.
Speaking ahead of England’s friendly against Switzerland at Leicester City’s King Power Stadium on Tuesday, Southgate was asked if he’d like to remain England manager and lead them through the 2022 World Cup.
“At the moment we’ve had initial discussions. That has been it. For me, I’ve got to focus on the job in hand. I’m contracted for the next 22 months or so and my focus, most importantly, is for tomorrow night and for this team to keep improving,” Southgate said. “This summer was an incredible experience for everybody. Those are the games you want to be involved in and the matches that matter. Beyond that I don’t really want to get into any more detail because I don’t want to distract things from the game.”
Southgate’s situation isn’t one that England fans should be overly concerned about.
The former England international has spoken many times about his love for the Three Lions and being their head coach. But his stock has never been higher as a coach and the former Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa defender will no doubt interest plenty of Premier League clubs when they have a managerial vacancy over the next 12 months.
Martin Glenn, the head of the English FA, has already acknowledged that they probably won’t be able to pay Southgate a salary close to what he could demand if he took charge of a PL club. Yet Southgate is a man who has been embedded into the masterplan to revive the English national teams from the very start and he seems keen to lead the men’s national team with so many promising youngster ready to break through from England’s U-17 and U-20 World Cup winning teams.
Add in the respect England’s young team have for him and the clear identity in a 3-4-3 formation he has brought to the team and Southgate has done all he can up until this point. For now, songs about loving Southgate and idolizing his waistcoast will continue, but over the next six months we will see if this England team can regain the form they showed over the summer as they aim to keep improving and be among the top contenders for the European Championships in two years’ time.
Getting Southgate locked down to a new deal is essential to making that a reality.
Demarai Gray and Ben Chilwell are going to be in familiar and unfamiliar territory at the very same time.
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The Leicester City youngsters have reportedly been called in Gareth Southgate‘s squad for Tuesday’s friendly against Switzerland at King Power Stadium.
It stands to reason Southgate will hand them on-field debuts in the friendly at their club’s home ground.
The 21-year-old Chilwell is a left back who has also played a bit more advanced during his time at Leicester, and has represented England at four youth levels.
Gray, 22, has the same background with England, arriving from Birmingham City to become a significant part of Claude Puel‘s side.
England lost controversially in Saturday’s UEFA Nations League match, a 2-1 decision against Spain at Wembley Stadium.
Gareth Southgate has called his first England roster since this summer’s successful World Cup run, with a few changes to the pack.
Manchester United left back Luke Shaw has earned his long-sought Three Lions recall, while Alex McCarthy of Southampton is the lone uncapped player on the 23-man list.
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James Tarkowski of Burnley is in the fold, taking the place of retired Gary Cahill. Manchester United’s Ashley Young and Phil Jones are absent, with Liverpool’s Joe Gomez among the defenders.
Southgate also had this very interesting quote regarding the challenges of an deeply international Premier League:
“I can’t rule out players in the Championship now as our pool is getting smaller and smaller.”
A wink to Jack Grealish or Nick Powell, perhaps, as well as an explanation for the inclusion of Stoke backstop Jack Butland.
Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke City), Alex McCarthy (Southampton), Jordan Pickford (Everton).
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Kyle Walker (Manchester City).
Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea).
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal).