"England's Number 1... England, England's Number 1"
Go on then, who is it?
Green? James? Hart? Shilton?? Banks???
With two weeks to go until the big kick off, I'm not so sure. It looks like David James and Robert Green will fight it out ahead of Joe Hart. Has either keeper been assured of his status as number 1 and backed accordingly, privately or publicly?
Before the WC qualifying campaign began, I suggested the number 1 priority was to identify and back a new man for the job - this is now an urgent requirement. Robinson had lost possession and form, while James has never convincingly grabbed the shirt or to my mind, a cross. To be fair, James has sound handling skills but the fear of a costly mistake will never go away and would worry most fans going into the latter stages of a tight game at the WC. It’s a pity because he is undoubtedly a world-class shot-stopper, a great organiser and his distribution is a real strength. However, I would prefer a safe pair of hands who brings calmness to the side.
My tip at the time was the then sixth-choice, Robert Green. He'd played at a consistently high-level for a while at West Ham and was never going to struggle for regular games, like perhaps Ben Foster. Capable of making important and spectacular saves, it was his calm approach that caught the eye. Since stepping in for James midway through the qualifiers, Green has been reasonably impressive without making the position his own.
Joe Hart has made great progress this year and has been solid all season at Birmingham playing a big role in their battling 1-0 victory route to success. Again he makes spectacular saves but for me it's his presence that will land him the big job in the future. In terms of form he's the one and he was quietly impressive against Mexico but this is a tournament too soon for him.
Given the final 3, I would start with Green and have James on the bench for emergency cover during games. Hart would not let anyone down if called on but the tournament experience alone will aid his development and whet his appetite for the future.
Personally, I would have gone with Paul Robinson for this tournament. Yes, he fell quickly out of favour for both club and country a couple of seasons back but he has responded in the right way. At Blackburn he's been largely consistent, successfully rebuilding both his focus and his confidence. More importantly he has experience of being the number 1 in the WC and would be coming in bang in form. To be honest, I don’t remember him making any game-changing saves last time around but he didn't look out of his depth either and is a better keeper now, given his recent experiences.
England's qualification was never going to hinge on who was in goal during qualifying and I would feel more confident if we had a long-established and undoubted number 1.
Has Capello dropped the ball on this one? We'll see in the coming weeks...
Come on England!