Gareth Southgate will name the 23-man England squad on Wednesday 16 May ahead of World Cup 2018 in Russia.
The Three Lions manager has made a bold statement in getting the squad named early, perhaps with the intention of getting them into a training camp and bonding together without the distraction of players needing to be cut in between.
England kick off their campaign on Monday 18, June, against Tunisia. After a disastrous tournament four years ago Southgate’s side are widely-expected to make it out of the group which also contains Panama and Belgium.
One big decision the manager still has to make is who the first-choice goalkeeper is going to be. Over the past several years and tournaments Joe Hart had been England’s number one.
However, the 31-year-old has had a poor season on loan at West Ham United. His form was so poor that he was ultimately dropped in favour of Adrian, with both goalkeepers starting 19 Premier League games each in the end.
It does appear that Hart will be going to Russia with the squad, but seemingly as the third choice goalkeeper. That’s because bookmaker Betfair have given odds of 8/13 on Hart making the squad in their World Cup 2018 betting section.
Many feel the Manchester City goalkeeper’s experience is simply what will get him there. As well as being part of the squad for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and Euro 2012 and 2016, Hart has 75 senior international caps.
In comparison, the two goalkeepers who are favourites to be England’s number one over the summer, Stoke City’s Jack Butland has seven caps and Everton’s Jordan Pickford has just two.
However, Betfair are offering 1/50 on both goalkeepers being part of Gareth Southgate’s squad – essentially they are already on the plane provided they stay healthy. But as to who will be the first choice is anyone’s guess.
Southgate has two more friendlies between now and the World Cup – Nigeria and Costa Rica at Wembley Stadium and Elland Road respectively. This is the last chance for both goalkeepers to earn the number one spot, assuming the former England international himself hasn’t already decided.
Football stat man Barrie’s View ran a poll on Twitter over the weekend asking his followers who they want to see between the sticks this summer. Jordan Pickford was the overwhelming favourite with 46% of the vote, followed by Butland’s 30%.
Interestingly, Burnley’s Nick Pope got 19% of the vote – substantially more than Joe Hart’s 5%. However, the 26-year-old only has one season of Premier League football behind his back and doesn’t have a single international appearance to his name. Simply, it’s his inexperience that will ultimately cost him a flight to Russia this summer.