England Manager Gareth Southgate has spoken about the “tight competition” between the goalkeepers in his squad.
The England manager has selected 4 goal keepers in his squad to face Netherlands and Italy this March, with regulars Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford and Joe Hart joined by Nick Pope.
And with Pope’s Burnley team-mate Tom Heaton also on the return to fitness after a shoulder injury, Southgate knows the battle is on for the three goalkeeping spots on the plane to Russia in June.
Speaking to The FA TV Southgate said “It is a really tight competition between all of those guys,” he revealed.
“If we had a game tomorrow, we know who we would select and we wouldn’t want a lack of clarity going into the tournament.
“We’ll be clear on that decision but it’s not one that I’d want to announce now because there’s a lot of football to be played and opportunities for people to impress.”
For the squad’s most experienced stopper, 74-cap Hart, it’s been a difficult few months being out of the West Ham United team before he returned to their side earlier in March.
But Southgate explained why he felt it was important to keep the on-loan Manchester City man involved in the squad with this being the final international week before the end of the domestic season.
“I spoke with Joe a few weeks ago and it didn’t look like he was going to play before these games,” revealed Southgate.
“At that time there was only three goalkeepers fit who had international experience, as Tom Heaton’s not fit at the moment and Fraser’s not in the side at Southampton.
“Joe has 74 caps and is a big personality in the group so we felt it was important at this point that we kept him in the squad.
“He’s been unfortunate that West Ham have had a spell in which he had to miss a game, because it was against Man City, and the other goalkeeper performed well.
“Joe’s now only had one game back in, so it remains to be seen whether he gets a run of games between now and the end of the season.”