LONDON, June 11 (Reuters) - England keeper Joe Hart is likely to be replaced for Tuesday’s friendly against France in Paris, adding further uncertainty to his career prospects after a year of turbulence for club and country.
The 30-year-old was criticised for standing leaden-footed in the England goal as two free kicks from Scotland’s Leigh Griffiths sailed either side of him into the net in the dramatic end to Saturday’s World Cup qualifier at Hampden Park.
Although England recovered to draw the game 2-2, Hart was criticised by some observers for not getting closer to either of Griffiths’ strikes.
England manager Gareth Southgate probably always intended to sideline his keeper in favour of Stoke City’s Jack Butland for Tuesday’s friendly, but Hart’s display has now opened the way for a permanent challenge.
“I think the decision was already made. Joe Hart was never going to play both games,” said former England international Danny Mills on the BBC.
“People have questioned Gareth – is he sharp enough to make those decisions? Is he brave enough? Well, he dropped Wayne Rooney as soon as got the job, which was a massive decision. Jack Butland, I assume, is going to play against France.”
Manchester City’s Hart, who made his England debut in 2008, has been unopposed as England’s number one for seven years and three international tournaments.
But last season he was dropped by club manager Pep Guardiola, who sent him out on loan to Italian side Torino and last week signed his replacement at Man City: Brazilian keeper Ederson has joined for what British media reported was 35 million pounds ($44.59 million), a world record fee for a goalkeeper.
Hart accepts he must find a new club for next season although his time in Italy drew only mixed reviews, and a potential buyer willing to meet City’s expected 25 million pounds valuation has yet to emerge.
While Guardiola has criticised Hart’s distribution, England will also be concerned about his tendency to concede from free kicks. Last year he was also beaten by Wales’ Gareth Bale from distance at the European Championship.
Southgate was non-committal about whether Hart was to blame for Saturday’s goals. “I’d need to look at the video again,” he said. “As soon as you concede free kicks in those areas in international football, you run the risk of being the victim of moments of high quality. That’s what happened to us.”
Coincidentally, another England goalkeeper drew high praise for his international performance on Sunday.
Newcastle’s Freddie Woodman, who happens to be Southgate’s godson, pulled off a superb save to help England under 20s win the World Cup, a prize that has eluded the seniors for 51 years.
Hart, who watched the game on television with his senior team mates, has never even got close to a major tournament final in his time with England. He knows better than anyone that the next generation is starting to emerge.
$1 = 0.7849 pounds Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Toby Davis