Malta v England: Joe Hart to start in World Cup qualifier


Hart is England’s best goalkeeper – Southgate

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Joe Hart will start in goal for England’s World Cup qualifier against Malta in Attard on Friday.

“I believe he’s our best goalkeeper at the moment,” manager Gareth Southgate said.

The 30-year-old has made 71 appearances for England and has started all three of West Ham’s Premier League matches this season.

Tom Heaton and Jack Butland played a half each in England’s most recent game, June’s friendly defeat by France.

However, Hart started the World Cup qualifier against Scotland three days before that.

Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford withdrew from the squad earlier this week with an injury, along with Tottenham defender Kieran Trippier.

Southgate added: “I wanted to see how he would respond because he has had a difficult start to the season with his club.

“We’re only three matches into the start of the season, so I don’t feel as though the others have had time to stake a claim to push Joe out of that position.

“We’ve got three excellent goalkeepers here, there’s Jordan Pickford who was with us before and Fraser Forster, who is very unfortunate not to be in the squad.

“I’m fascinated to see how they all get on over the next few months.”

Forster was left out of the squad despite being on the bench for England’s last four internationals

Southgate says he has chosen who will captain England but the players will not be informed until Friday.

Former skipper Wayne Rooney announced his retirement last week and Hart, midfielder Jordan Henderson and striker Harry Kane are the most likely candidates to take over the captaincy.

Liverpool skipper Henderson wore the armband for England’s draws against Slovenia and Spain in 2016, while Tottenham’s Kane embraced captaincy by scoring three goals in total against Scotland and France.

Hart remains the most capped player in the current squad and captained the side in the 2-0 win over Lithuania in March.

‘Hart is not England’s best goalkeeper’ – analysis

Former Republic of Ireland midfielder Andy Townsend on BBC Radio 5 live: “Now is the time to play somebody with more presence than Joe Hart in goal for England. Gareth Southgate has decided to stick with the experienced player but I don’t think he’s the best goalkeeper.”

Stoke and Scotland midfielder Charlie Adam, also on 5 live: “I think Jack Butland is the best goalkeeper. And, as England are playing two sides they should beat comfortably, why not give him or the next keeper after Joe Hart the chance to play in two World Cup qualifiers?”

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