NOT so long ago Joe Hart had it all: No1 for the champions and England, and seemingly set to stay that way for years to come, but Wednesday’s error-strewn display against Bayern Munich laid bare his deterioration.
Now Hart is desperately out of sorts, frantic, jittery; like a cat on a hot tin roof. Gone is the calmness, his positional sense is off and he is flapping at things. It is panic goalkeeping.
He is committing critical errors in big games, as he did in the midweek Champions League defeat, and I am not happy with him for England matches, especially when they are as important as the next two.
Manager Roy Hodgson appears to be sticking with him but he can’t be happy either. The same goes for City boss Manuel Pellegrini, while we know his predecessor Roberto Mancini was ready to sell Hart.
If these two fixtures were friendlies rather than make-or-break World Cup qualifiers I am sure Hart would be dropped, but the importance of the occasion makes it a riskier proposition.
That said, I still think Hodgson should have considered it. The problem he has is that England are so bereft of keepers with international experience. It’s a far cry from the days of Shilton and Clemence.
Fraser Forster has been earning rave reviews for Celtic, and made two absolutely blinding saves against Barcelona on Tuesday. Newcastle did not want to let him go but he wanted games and has done extremely well in Glasgow.
For all his qualities, though, he hasn’t played a single minute for England, and you can’t throw someone like that into games of this magnitude. Steve McClaren did it with Scott Carson in 2007 and it was catastrophic.
Experience will be vital against Montenegro and Poland, so I’m surprised there is no place in the squad for Rob Green. The QPR man has a dozen caps and played at major tournaments, so has the pedigree.
Hart, meanwhile, seems to have taken his eye off the ball – figuratively and sometimes literally. I’m sure he is training hard but perhaps being distracted by off-field commitments.
Regardless, Hodgson is sticking with his man for now, but I’d be amazed if he wasn’t looking around for alternatives.
Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who played at two World Cups. He now works as a media commentator.