Joe Hart’s World Cup dreams appear to have gone up in smoke as Gareth Southgate prepares to name the England squad bound for Russia.
Months of speculation, scrutiny and intrigue come to a head on Wednesday afternoon, when the 23 men charged with taking on the world’s best this summer are revealed.
Their delight will contrast markedly with the disappointment of those missing out, with Hart – comfortably England’s most experienced player – said to have missed the cut.
Despite the 75-cap goalkeeper’s struggles for form and game-time, Southgate spoke glowingly about his professionalism and leadership when third-fiddle to Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland in March’s international meet-up.
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The England manager also underlined the importance of the West Ham loanee’s role in getting his country to the World Cup and just last August called the criticised shot-stopper the country’s “best goalkeeper”.
But Burnley’s Nick Pope has reportedly usurped him in pecking order after Southgate called Hart on Monday to tell him he would not be in the squad heading to Russia.
It is a bold – and no doubt difficult – call, but Southgate said in March that he was being “really straight with him throughout” the selection process.
“Joe’s professionalism has been brilliant with us,” the England boss said after the March friendlies. “He’s always performed well for us.
“We had the best defensive record in Europe in qualifying.
“This week, even though he knew he wasn’t going to be involved in the games, he’s been a positive influence on the other players.”
Hart finished his spell on loan with West Ham at the weekend, with reports that he would be sent back to Manchester City where he has a year left on his contract.
The City stopper made only 19 appearances for West Ham in the league this season, and 23 overall, after battling with Spanish ‘keeper Adrian for the first-choice spot under David Moyes.